Lebanon Elections: Zahle Tripartite Alliance in the Making

Lebanon Elections: Zahle Tripartite Alliance in the Making

Wednesday, 7 February, 2018 - 10:30
A general view of the Lebanese city of Zahle in 2016. (Reuters)
Beirut - Paula Astih
Most of Lebanon’s political parties have not yet announced their electoral alliances and candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections in May, although the Interior Ministry had on Monday said that candidates could now officially submit their candidacies.

Observers believe that political blocs have left doors open to all possibilities in search for options that would enable them to garner the largest number of parliamentary seats.

The electoral battle in the town of Zahle, in the Bekaa governorate, has a special significance given the sectarian and confessional diversity of its residents.

The results of the last elections in 2009 constituted a big shock to the March 8 forces, which were expecting a victory that ended with a dramatic loss after the rival March 14 camp won the city’s seven parliamentary seats.

There are 172,555 voters in Zahle, distributed between Sunnis, Shi’ites, Maronites and Armenians, but the Catholics have a major presence, with 32,295 voters.

According to the latest available data, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), founded by President Michel Aoun, will forge an alliance with the Future Movement, a union that will also be seen in most of the electoral districts.

Sources in the FPM told Asharq Al-Awsat that a tripartite alliance would likely be reached in the city, combining Aoun’s movement, the Future and Lebanese Forces (LF), pointing out that the agreement with the LF in Zahle was easier than some people might think.

“Ongoing consultations between us are focusing on the means to establish an electoral alliance in Lebanon as a whole, with the possibility of separation in a number of constituencies, provided that the number of districts, which unite us on the same list, is greater than that of districts where we fight the electoral battle alone,” the sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The seven electoral seats are distributed as follows: two Catholic seats, one Armenian Orthodox, one Greek Orthodox, one Maronite, one Sunni and one Shi’ite seat.

Electoral expert Antoine Mukheiber told Asharq Al-Awsat that he expected that the Future Movement would be capable of winning two seats in the city, one Sunni and another Christian.

The Shi’ite “Hezbollah” and Amal Movement duo would probably win the single Shi’ite seat, according to Mukheiber, but would be able to take two parliamentary seats if it allied with MP Nicolas Fattoush or General Manager of Zahle Electricity Company Asaad Nakad.

As for the FPM, he noted that it would likely win only the Maronite seat, just like the LF and Popular Bloc, ruling out the possibility for the Kataeb Party and civil society groups to achieve any significant breach.

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