BEIRUT—As the Ministry of Interior's deadline of midnight on April 22 drew to a close, 115 candidates withdrew from the electoral race leaving 587 who will contend for the 128 seats of the Lebanese parliament.
Prior to the withdrawals, the number of candidates for seats in the Lebanese parliament was 702, an unprecedented turnout in the history of parliamentary elections in Lebanon. The high number of candidates points to an intense electoral battle to determine a majority in the next parliament. The dominant force in Lebanese politics will be either the March 8th Forces allied with Syria and Iran, or the March 14th Forces associated with the Arab states, Europe, and the U.S.
At a press conference convened after the withdrawal deadline, Lebanese Minister of the Interior Ziad Baroud confirmed that, "As a result of the withdrawal of a number of candidates, three candidates have won by default. One of them is the Armenian member of parliament from North Metn, Hagop Pakradounian. The other two, Sebouh Kalpakian and Arthur Nazarian, represent Beirut's second district."
A number of prominent figures also withdrew their candidacies, including former head of parliament Hussein Al-Husseini. He opted out of the electoral race having failed to form an alliance with Hezbollah in the Baalbek-Hermel district; the latter chose to ally itself with the former Qatari secretary of the Baath Party, Assem Qansouh.
At the same time, Hezbollah's candidate, parliament member Amin Cherri, pulled out of the elections for Beirut's second district in favour of the Amal Movement's candidate, Hani Qubeisi. The withdrawal is considered a strategic move to halt disputes between parliament head Nabih Berri and General Michel Auon over parliamentary seats in Baabda and Jezzine. Former Member of Parliament Nassib Lahoud, the head of the Democratic Renewal Movement and a previous Lebanese ambassador to Washington, also withdrew his candidacy.
The Minister of the Interior explained that, "On the political level, those who have withdrawn are no longer on the ballots. On the legal front, they are no longer part of the electoral process with regard to the calculation of votes. They have the right to recover 8 million Lebanese liras, half the value of their deposits." He also noted that, "Elections personnel, who number 11,500, will be provided with the chance to vote three days before June 7."
Sporadic security incidents accompanied the formation of several electoral lists in a number of areas. Security tensions were registered between the Sunni Bab Al-Tabana and the Alawite Jabal Mohsen in Tripoli. Mass protests also took place in Akkar, where roads were cut off following the exclusion from the lists of Mohammed Suleiman. Suleiman is a member of the Future Movement, which is headed by parliament member Saad Hariri, and a candidate for the tribes of Wadi Khaled. He was replaced with another candidate.
(Sources: National Media Agency, Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation, Lebanon Files)