Sunday’s 40-day memorial for the late Metn MP Albert Mokheiber saw two candidates for his parliamentary seat gather for church services in Beit Mery, as efforts continued over the weekend to find a “compromise” solution to break up a seven-horse race.
In Beit Mery, candidate Ghassan Mokheiber accepted condolences on behalf of the Mokheiber family after Sunday’s services, which saw Gebran Tueni in attendance.
Officially, there are seven candidates standing for the Orthodox seat: Mokheiber, Tueni, Gabriel Murr, Samir Choueiri, former Metn MP Riad Abi Fadel and Myrna Murr, who heads the Union of Metn Municipalities.
But only the two Murrs, Mokheiber and Tueni are seen as serious players, whether or not they intend to stay in the race until the end, while Abi Fadel has been touted as a possible compromise candidate.
On Saturday, former President Amin Gemayel met with Bishop Youssef Beshara, who has been tasked by Bkirki to conduct talks with the various sides in the hope of producing a compromise. Gemayel and Metn MP Nassib Lahoud, who met with Beshara on Sunday, have backed Gabriel Murr for the seat.
A source close to Lahoud said that nothing had come out of the mediation efforts, “since none of the proposals meets our criteria for a compromise candidate.”
The source said the Lahoud-Gemayel camp was readying itself for an election battle, while security sources noted that the Metn had seen an increased security presence in recent days, reflecting the tension in the run-up to the June 2 by-election.
However, some observers following the race said any so-called “compromise” solution will come at the expense of the Lahoud-Gemayel camp and play into the hands of the Murr political machine, which is seen as having two candidates: Myrna Murr, the daughter of Metn MP Michel Murr, and Tueni.
Interior Minister Elias Murr has touted Tueni as his favorite “consensus” candidate for the seat. Observers said that even if the seat goes to Mokheiber as part of a deal between the various sides, Lahoud and Gemayel will lose out, having backed Gabriel Murr.
“The race appears to have been won by Michel Murr already,” one observer remarked. “Everyone is getting ready for an election battle, but they’re also looking over their shoulders and getting involved in these mediation efforts. It’s a strange race.”
As for open endorsements in the June 2 race, Metn MP Emile Lahoud Jr. said Saturday that he supported Myrna Murr, both for political reasons and the fact that she is a women and a relatively young candidate, “two segments that are under-represented in Parliament.”
Tueni, the general manager of An-Nahar newspaper, picked up the support of Journalists Union chief Melhem Karam, while Abi Fadel had the backing of former Metn MP August Bakhos.
During a television interview Sunday, Kesrouan MP Fares Boueiz mocked the Qornet Shehwan Gathering, which includes Lahoud, Gemayel, Tueni and Mokheiber. Boueiz said the opposition gathering should be known as Qornet Shehawat (Desires), instead of Qornet Shehwan, since the group appeared beset by the conflicting aims of its members.
During Sunday’s service, Orthodox Bishop George Khodr praised the late Mokheiber and said he was bothered by why wise people were “disregarded” in Lebanon. “Why are so many wise people outside (the political system)?” he asked.