The new mayor and deputy mayor of Sidon were elected yesterday to their posts unopposed after opposition leader Ousama Saad withdrew in protest against what he described as MP Bahiya Hariri’s influence on the council’s affairs.
Hilal Qobrusli and Mahmoud Hariri were the only members of the 21-member council to raise their hands when the chairman of the session asked for candidates for posts of president and vice president.
Nevertheless, observers said Hariri would be likely to “run the council’s affairs”, saying that real power in the council lay with the Hariri machine, which named 12 out of 21 members on the coalition election ticket.
One council member said the atmosphere during the session clearly reflected the situation.
“No one dared do otherwise. We were like good little students in the classroom,” he said.
Farouq Zaatari had been reportedly promised the vice president’s slot but political sources indicated that MP Hariri chose to replace him with Mahmoud Hariri, alleging that the Zaatari family had not voted for the entire 21-person list.
Qobrusli promised that the council would begin its development work by focusing on collecting taxes and fees and obtaining additional sources of revenue from the central government and private institutions, improving the performance of employees, and carrying out planning in terms of financial capabilities and construction activities.
Qobrusli’s statement, printed before the session, began by noting that “a democratic voting process” had taken place to determine the two positions, although no vote occurred due to the lack of candidates.
At the opening of the session, which was convened by governor of the south Faisal Sayegh, Saad based his withdrawal on several points, including “side meetings” to guide the selection process taking place at Bahiya Hariri’s home in Majdalyoun, and not within the council.
He also condemned the “dividing up of spoils” which he said he had opposed from the beginning of the campaign.
The war of words between Saad and MP Hariri continued after the session at a news conference, where Saad called on the deputy to refrain from interfering in the council’s work.