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.

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