Former Tripoli MP Misbah al-Ahdab will announce his candidacy for mayor of Lebanon's second city Tuesday, but the shape of alliances in the upcoming municipal elections there remains unclear. Ahdab, who heads the Civil Moderation Movement, will engage in the fierce electoral battle set for May 29.
Tripoli native Ahdab, who has a strong supporter-base in his hometown, said he would not commit to any political agreement that may emerge between Future Movement leader Saad Hariri, former Prime Minister Najib Mikati, and other political groups in the city.
Ahdab is a current rival of the Future Movement.
There are a number of parties and families in Tripoli who have their own supporters and carry weight in the city, making it difficult to form a clear idea of the shape of coalitions. The formation of a consensus list remains uncertain.
No agreement has been reached on three names that have been put forward for mayor, according to sources, following the meetings held between Mikati, MPs Mohammad Safadi, Samir Jisr, Mohammad Kabbara, and Ahmad Karami along with former Minister Faisal Karami.
The three names under consideration are Abdul-Rahman al-Thamin, Azzam Uwayda, and Omar Hallab. But the vetoing of these names by various city notables has thwarted attempts to reach agreement on any one of them.
Some sources stated that the Future Movement, Safadi, and Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya have engaged in talks to form a list if Tripoli's political officials fail to reach consensus on a unified list that brings together all parties.
Despite such reports, there is talk that Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya could partner with Salafist groups in the city to move forward with its own list.
Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya official Ihab Nafeh has hinted at this possibility on several occasions.
The group could resort to such an arrangement if they are excluded from consensus lists in the municipal and mukhtar elections.
The electoral battle will also see the presence of former Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi. The Tripoli native is a rival of Ahdab and Mikati.
His relationship with the Future Movement, which he is close to, has been strained over policy differences, and he resigned from the Cabinet in February.
Sources close to Mikati said preparations were being made to form a list supported by his Azm Movement and backed by Karami.
It is believed that this list, possibly headed by Uwayda, could compete with a list backed by Rifi and headed by Ahmad Qamareddine, which would include members of civil society and representatives of Tripoli's major families.
Sources close to Rifi said that he opposed the current division of political spoils.
The battle lines in Tripoli and Mina will not be clear until the Future Movement's position is apparent.
Observers have said that indications continue to point toward a contest between the lists supported by Mikati and Rifi.
Jisr explained that the Future Movement would give voters the freedom of choice. There is reservation among some of the movement's officials for the group's alliance with Mikati against Rifi.
Amid this atmosphere of ambiguity, Christian politicians of Tripoli are organizing their own efforts.
These kicked off with meetings held at MP Robert Fadel's residence, with the participation of political and spiritual figures. The meetings focused on the representation of Christians on municipal councils.
Civil society groups in Tripoli are also mobilizing ahead of the municipal elections, holding numerous meetings as they attempt to put together a list that can stand against what they consider to be the undemocratic sharing of political spoils.
A meeting was held at the Chamber of Commerce, Agriculture, and Industry by civil society groups and members of North Lebanon's Forum of the Handicapped.
Members from the forum have visited Governor of the North Ramzi Nohra, asking him to ensure that special polling centers be prepared for people with disabilities so that they could exercise their right to vote.
Nawaf Kabbara, chair of North Lebanon's Forum of the Handicapped, said that an agreement had been reached with Nohra to send a memo to Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk regarding the issue.
Another group that has emerged is the Emergency Commission for Tripoli Movement, which had announced it will form a "Save Tripoli" list that includes members of civil society.
Women have expressed more interest in running for the posts, a relatively new development in the city.
The number of eligible voters in Tripoli exceeds 199,000. The city will prepare 295 municipal and mukhtar voting booths, spread across 38 polling stations.
There are more than 38,000 eligible voters in Mina, which will outfit 67 municipal voting booths and 69 mukhtar voting booths of its own.
By Antoine Amrieh
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