jos_lebanon_electionThe second round of Lebanon’s municipal elections kicked off Sunday in Beirut and the Beqaa as polling stations opened at 7 am and voters in the Lebanese capital lined up to elect a 24-member council from a pool of 94 candidates.

There are 231 candidates running for one of the 102 mayor (Mukhtar) seats up for grabs in Beirut. Thus, the “battle” in the capital is limited to the “mayors” after Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement announced their “boycott” of the municipal polls, in protest to the “hegemony” imposed by some political parties in Beirut.

In the Beqaa, 44 municipality and 127 mayor seats have already won uncontested. Still, 352 candidates compete for mayor seats on Sunday’s race. However, in the Beqaa and especially in Zahle, the battle seems to be really “heated” amid a fierce rivalry between three lists and other independent candidates, at the top of whom is the FPM candidate Antoine Bou Younes.

While the Popular Bloc of former minister Elias Skaff and the FPM couldn’t reach an agreement over the elections despite their “alliance,” press reports said that contacts were made in the past hours between opposition forces to mobilize support for the list backed by Skaff and for the sole FPM candidate Antoine Bou Younes.

The Lebanese Interior Ministry says it is closely following the electoral process. Any complaints should be directed to the ministry’s hotline number: 1790.

Interior Minister Ziad Baroud said on Sunday that his ministry is taking a similar approach to Sunday’s municipal elections in Beirut and the Beqaa as it did in last weekend’s race in Mount Lebanon, but with some improvements.

Baroud said there was a slight delay for the opening of one of the polling stations in Beirut; however, he said the issue was resolved.

He also said the Interior Ministry, which is following Sunday’s electoral process, is responding quickly to all matters, and has brought in additional members to have the capacity to deal with any problems.

After casting his ballot in Beirut’s municipal elections on Sunday, Prime Minister Saad Hariri rejected describing the capital’s race as a sectarian battle. “The Amal Movement is running [on the Beirut Unity list] with us, and I did not hear any comment from Hezbollah regarding the matter,” Hariri said.

The prime minister said he respects the FPM and its political choices, adding that “we are open to the FPM, even if consensus was not reached with [the party].”

Thousands of security and military personnel have been deployed in Beirut and Beqaa to ensure the safety of the polls. Tanks were deployed in several points around the capital


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