Hariri-Backed List Claims Beirut Municipal Poll Victory

A Lebanese election official counts ballots after their polling station closed during Beirut's municipal elections, Lebanon, May 8. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT, May 9  – A list backed by mainstream Lebanese parties has won Beirut municipality elections, its leader said early on Monday, seeing off a challenge by an independent movement that had sought to galvanise voters angry with political paralysis.

Local media reported a decisive victory for the “Beirutis” list, headed by Jamal Itani, after his announcement based on initial results. Final results were to be announced later on Monday.

The municipality elections that got underway on Sunday mark the first vote in Lebanon in six years: parliamentary elections that were due to be held in 2013 have been postponed twice due to political instability exacerbated by the Syrian conflict. Elections are due to be held across the country for the next two weeks.

Turnout in Beirut was around 20 percent, local media said.

The list that won Beirut was backed by established groups including the Future Movement of Sunni Muslim politician Saad al-Hariri, a former prime minister. There are 24 seats on the municipality.

It saw off the challenge by the recently formed “Beirut Madinati” movement that emerged from a wave of public anger last summer over the government’s failure to solve a waste disposal crisis that resulted in rubbish piling up around the city.

Beirut Madinati campaigners said the momentum created by their campaign was in itself a victory. The movement has sought to challenge the long-established political parties that have long dominated the Lebanese state.

“We are the winners, this atmosphere you see, these young people who are all about hope, life, hope in the Beirut that we dream of, this is what we have won,” film director Nadine Labaki, a Beirut Madinati candidate, told New TV on Sunday night.

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