BEIRUT: Hezbollah deputy head Sheikh Naim Qassem declared victory of his party’s list in municipal elections for the eastern district of Baalbek and the border town of Brital.
In a televised press conference, Qassem said the Hezbollah-backed Loyalty and Development list witnessed complete victory in Baalbek and the border town of Brital, according to the movement's vote count.
“The Bekaa region has succeeded in breaking the obstruction that has plagued the state and was able to successfully complete the electoral process,” Qassem said, adding that he hoped that presidential and parliamentary elections would follow.
"It is enough that the municipalties were a part of the resistance and we are ready to give it whatever it needs," Qassem added.
The Loyalty and Development list is formed by Hezbollah, the Amal Movement and other March 8 coalition parties.
The top Hezbollah official said they anticipate the succeess of their list in 60 municipalities in the Bekaa Valley region, while results remain unclear in another 20 municipalities.
In the city of Baalbek, it was up against the secular Baalbek Madinati (Baalbek is my City) headed by Ghaleb Yaghi and backed by former minister Charbel Nahas. Both lists were competing for the 21-member council, which has been dominated by Hezbollah for the past 12 years.
Baalbek Madinati, a ticket comprising local civil society activists claimed that public services have essentially been stripped bare during the party’s tenure, with some locals also saying they are fed up with Hezbollah’s administration in the Bekaa in general and Baalbek in particular.
Meanwhile in Brital, Hezbollah was up against a list headed by the Tufayli family. Hezbollah's former head is Subhi al-Tufayli, who is today an outspoken critic of the party and Iran.
Qassem called on the defeated lists to put their losses aside and cooperate with them in the development of the towns.
Baalbek saw the highest voter turnout in the country. Reports indicated Sunday that around 44 percent of eligible voters headed to the ballot box.
Although Baalbek is famous for its impeccably preserved ancient Roman ruins, including the Jupiter and Bacchus temples, the area remains one of Lebanon’s most impoverished regions. Poverty and lawlessness are rife, leading to high levels of crime. A lack of opportunities for legitimate business ventures have led some of the area’s farmers to grow illegal crops.
Sunday was the first round of municipal elections in Lebanon for Beirut and the Baalbek-Hermel governorates.