Three killed in election violence in Lebanon

Published May 8th, 2016 - 01:00 GMT
A Lebanese man puts up a poster of a candidate in the Beirut municipal elections. (AFP/File)
A Lebanese man puts up a poster of a candidate in the Beirut municipal elections. (AFP/File)

The Bekaa Valley and Baalbek-Hermel districts witnessed heated battles between rival parties running for local elections, with three people being treated at hospitals after scuffles broke out in Zahle.

TV footage showed a scuffle at a polling station in Zahle between supporters of the Lebanese Forces, people who back the Fattoush list, and the supporters of the Skaff family's Popular Bloc over the vote-buying allegations.

A similar incident occurred at an office of the Popular Bloc, after LF supporters reportedly stormed into it.

"I'm still waiting for the Lebanese Forces to explain what happened. I call on people to try to protect the democratic way we should all follow," Popular Bloc head Myriam Skaff told reporters.

Three people were lightly injured in the fighting and admitted to nearby hospitals, the source said.

After the scuffles, Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk told reporters from the Baalbek Serail that the situation in Zahle was under control.

He later visited the restive border town of Arsal, telling reporters he was joyed to "have arrived here".

Separately, a source told The Daily Star that the Army Intelligence raided an apartment belonging to the Fattoush family in the village of Hawsh al-Oumara in the western Bekaa where voters were reportedly being bribed.

MP Nicolas Fattoush dismissed the allegations as he left a polling station in Zahle, saying that "the rumors are merely excuses for the weak."

Three lists are competing in Zahle. One is headed by Skaff, the "Parties' List" made up of mainstream Christian groups, and a list backed by Fattoush.

The Parties' List comprises the Lebanese Forces, the Free Patriotic Movement and the Kataeb Party. Fattoush's list is headed by his brother, Musa.

The Skaff family is widely popular in Zahle, and Maryam has been carrying the torch of her late-husband, Elias, who died of cancer earlier this year.

But with Elias's passing, Fattoush is looking to capitalize on the inexperience of Maryam in elected office to draw fresh support, while the three major political parties are seeking to wrest Zahle from the powerful local families that have long dominated the Municipal Council.

Hezbollah deputy head Sheikh Naim Qassem said in a news conference from Baalbek that his party is supporting various candidates from the three lists running for the Zahle Municipal Council.

In other areas of the Bekaa Valley, Qassem urged people to vote for the "Loyalty and Development" list, which represents a Hezbollah/Amal Movement alliance.

Hezbollah is facing fierce competition in the Baalbek-Hermel district village of Brital against the former Hezbollah secretary-general, Sheikh Sobhi Tufaily.

"The towns that we (Hezbollah) are running in already support the resistance and we don't have to engage in a political battle, except in Baalbek and Brital, where politics are added to our development battle," Qassem said.

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