Lebanon municipal election results show victory for Hezbollah in Baalbek
Supporters of Hezbollah chant slogans during a televised speech by leader Hassan Nasrallah. (AFP/File)
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Exit polls for the municipal elections in the east Lebanon district of Baalbek early Monday suggested a clear victory for the Hezbollah-backed Loyalty and Development list.
The state-run National News Agency reported that preliminary results given by Hezbollah indicated success for the list in Baalbek and the border town of Brital.
The NNA added that Hezbollah deputy head Sheikh Naim Qassem is scheduled to give a press conference at 11 a.m. on the list's victory.
The Loyalty and Development list is formed by Hezbollah, the Amal Movement and other March 8 coalition parties. 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.
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.