Sunday Fun Facts!

  • The oldest candidate for the upcoming elections is 90, Mr. Mikhail Daher, and there are 12 candidates in total who are 80 years old and above. Meanwhile, Lebanon’s median age is of 30 years, and 40% of them are under 24 years old.
  • Tyre – Zahrani district has the lowest number of running lists with 2

Beirut II has the largest with 9

  • The largest projected threshold will be in the district of Tyre – Zahrani or Akkar with around 22,000.

The smallest will be in Beirut I with around 7,000

  • Here is a breakdown of the different lists colors:

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Tyre – Zahrani* , a tough battle to break a monopoly!

The deep South, the stronghold of Speaker Nabih Berri and his party Amal. Despite Hezbollah pressure and influence, Speaker Berri has been able to cement his control over this area, while keeping it relatively liberal. Indeed, you can still have a drink on the seaside, while enjoying a swim in Tyre, as opposed to the rest of the south, which have fallen under Hezbollah more strict and conservative hegemony.
Historically, the region has been under the influence of a few feudal families like the As’ad and the Ousseiran, with a significant communist and leftist presence. With the advent of Moussa Sader and the civil war in 1975, these families lost their predominance to the new kids on the block: Hezbollah and Amal. It was in the late 80 and early 90’s that Hezbollah’s predominance grew, as they got rid of most of the communist and leftist opposition.
In 2009, Speaker Berri list won handily with an average of 90% of the votes cast. However, only 51% (125,000 out of 245,500)** of the registered voters participated, due mostly to the nature of the majoritarian law and the lack of viable opposition (14 March candidates did not run in that district).
It is not longer 2009, the law is proportional, and despite having the smallest number of running candidates in all districts (13 candidates in a district with 7 seats) and the smallest number of lists (just two). Speaker Berri and Hezbollah are faced with a well-rounded list, formed by Riad Assaad, a scion of the old family, and an young engineer with a good political and social presence in the area. He is allied with a few independents from different backgrounds (leftist, and some old communists), in addition to a christian from President Aoun’s FPM.
However, with a high threshold, estimated at 21 or 22,000, and a small and fractured Sunni and Christian minority (they both form less than 20% of registered and even less than that of participating voters) the opposing list is facing with an uphill fight. The battle will be fought around Riad Assaad list ability to break through the threshold to just win a seat. Meanwhile, speaker Berri’s strategy revolves on shoring up the Shia participation and vote, to consolidate his grip over Tyre, and ensure that the christian minority in Zahrani stays loyal to him, without drifting to any christian political party (Aoun’s FPM).
With an increased heated rhetoric and attacks against the opposing list, it seems al As’ad list is gaining momentum, and it might win that symbolic seat. Such a win would show that Hezbollah and Amal’s twin monopoly on Shia districts representation is degrading, and an alternative -albeit small- independent Shia movement is growing and taking shape.
*the disrict is officially called Tyre – saida villages, which includes Zahrani and is very confusing
** number are rounded for ease of reading

Saida – Jezzine, the smallest district and biggest battle!

The saida Jezzine district is the smallest among the 15 others, with only 5 seats. Officially there are around 120,000 are registered and it is expected that around 70,000 will vote (60%, with more voting in Saida than in Jezzine), indicating a minimum threshold of around 14,000.
saida jezzine close up
Saida is the third largest city in Lebanon, after Beirut and Tripoli. It is a Sunni stronghold, forming more 80% of its population. Saida’s two parliamentary seats have always been coveted, especially after the end of the civil war, when Rafik Hariri, who originated from the small coastal city entered the political arena.
Before the war, Saida had one seat, and it was fiercely contested by the Saad family (Marrouf then Mustapha after him) and the Biziri family headed by Dr. Nazih Bizri. This competition did not end after the war, as the Hariri’s represented by Bahiaa (the sister of Rafik Hariri) inherited the Bizri seat after the death of Nazih, and took over the contest against Oussam Saad.
In 2009, saida had one of the highest rate of participation with 68%. In that election Bahiaa Hariri and PM Fouad Sinioura won handsomely with 25,500 and 23,000 votes to 13,500 for Oussama Saad, who at the time was allied with Abed Rahman Bizri, the son of the late Nazih.*
It is important to note that the 2009 numbers are not an accurate measure for the different lists in 2018. The alliances have shifted, there is a new law in play, and the parties’ popularities have considerably shifted since 2009.
This time Saida has been merged with Jezzine, a large Christian village, with a substantial Shiite block of around 7,000 voters. In 2009 Aoun’s FPM won all three seats with 16,000 to Samir Azzar’s 10,000 angering Speaker Berri, who supported his long time ally from the Azar family.
In this upcoming elections, four lists are competing, three with a serious chance of winning at least a seat. They include most of the city’s political players.
The first list is supported by the Future Movement, headed by MP Bahiaa Hariri, backed by a number of independent personalities, most prominent among them is Amin Rizik the son of Edmon Rizik, who lost in 2009, but still received 7,400 votes. The prospect for this list are an assured seat, as Hariri would be able to muster more than 14,000. Their chances for a second seats relies on how many extra votes they can win in Jezzine.
The second list is an amalgam of political alliances. President Aoun’s FPM is running a fierce battle against Speaker Berri candidate in Jezzine Ibrahim Azzar. With tension rising between the president and the speaker, Jezzine will be a very contentious district. In 2009 FPM got 15,500 and they are expected to get that number and some more. But again due to the peculiarities of this law, their chances of getting three Christians seats are slim. However, their alliance with Abed Rahman Bizri and the Jamma Islamia (a branch of the Muslim brotherhood), is giving them at least 10,000 additional votes, making their prospects more positive. This list has the most chances to get two seats with an additional possibility of getting a third.
The third list is an alliance between Ibrahim Azar in Jezzine and Oussam Saad in Saida. Each has a strong core of followers, which are supported by the Shiite blocks in both areas. Azar family and the invaluable support of speaker Berri will net them around 10,000 votes in Jezzine, while Oussama Saad can count on at least 9,000 in Saida. This list has one seat assured for Mr. Azar, with a good chance of getting another. (The list has two additional candidates but they do not have any significant base of support)
Lastly, the fourth and weakest list formed by an alliance between the Lebnaese forces candidate in Jezzine Ajaj Haddad who got 6,500 votes in 2009, and the Kateab candidate Joeseph Nahra, in addition to Samir Bizri, a newcomer to the political arena in Saida. However, Samir Bizri is closely related to Mr. Merhi Abou Merhi, a very wealthy merchant from Saida, who dabbled in some politics a few years ago, but his profile was damaged when he was hit by US sanctions. Still, this list would need an additional 8,000 votes to reach the threshold, a tough act in an already crowded field. Yet with an abundance of funds, and a heated elections, surprises can still happen.
*all numbers are slightly rounded for ease of reading, for the exact results please check this link.