ARF Endorsed Candidates Win in Lebanese Local Elections

BEIRUT (Aztag–Daily Star)–From Bourdj Hammoud–Ashrafieh to Beirut and Hadjin–Lebanese Armenia’s participated in local elections Monday–with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-endorsed candidates overwhelmingly winning positions in all nominations.

It should be stated that the ARF was in alliance with prime minister Rafik al Hairi’s Beirut Accord list and presented numerous Armenian candidates–all of whom won seats for mayor–city councils and neighborhood leaders–mukhtars.

Candidates backed by Prime Minister Hariri and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri swept to victory in Lebanon’s local elections–according to official results announced on Monday.

Interior Minister Michel al-Murr told a news conference late in the evening that Hariri’s supporters and their allies won 23 municipal seats out of 24 in Beirut. Abdelhamid Fakhoury–a supporter of Hariri’s rival leftist deputy Najah Wakim–won one seat.

The local elections–the first in 35 years–have been widely seen as a test of whether democracy can overcome the bitter sectarian and political legacy of a savage 15-year-long civil war that ended in 1990.

In a televised interview–Hagop Pakradouni the ARF Lebanon Central Committee political affairs coordinator stated that commended the role of the Armenian voters in maintaining the national balance during the Beirut vote.

Pakradouni also stated that the high Armenian voter turnout could have an effect on the future of Lebanese politics.

With civil war and the exodus of thousands of Armenian families from Lebanon–the Armenian community was viewed by some circles as weak. The enormous political activity during this election and last year’s parliamentary election proved that the Armenian vote was a crucial indicator in Lebanese local politics.

Pakradouni announced that the Armenian political parties involved in the elections in no way pressured citizen into voting.

He asserted that the candidate lists were publicized and as such the people made their choices.

Armenian centers throughout Lebanon were busy guiding the electorate to the proper polling stations and the Armenian National Committee of Lebanon provided information on candidate platforms and positions.

Election-day activity for the Beirut poll was at a fever pitch Sunday as campaign workers directed voters into dozens of waiting taxis that stretched around the block–ready to take people to polling stations.

Of the hoped-for 10,000-12,000 Armenian voters in Beirut–a few thousand reside across the river. Those affiliated with one of the party’s organizations walked to the Sardarabad cultural center–where they were informed of their polling station–provided with the party-approved candidate lists–and whisked off into taxis–the Daily Star added.

"We have 15 campaign centers–600 delegates–1,200 volunteer workers–and we have hired 1,000 cars to help transport voters. The campaign has cost us about $230,000," Pakradouni told the Daily Star.

At the head of the taxi line–Jean Kokajian directed traffic. If a driver failed to follow instructions to the letter–people up to 200 metres away could hear the results. Kokajian shouted out the voters’ destination and numbers as they arrived–filling taxis and making sure the drivers knew the area. If they did not–a party member parked on a side street pulled out ahead to lead the way. Drivers received $50 for the day–although the number of trips made was also being recorded–reported the English-language newspaper.

Sonia Demerdjian–from Jal al-Dib–did not want to abandon the taxi that brought her to the polling station.

"You go to the club–pick up the list–and come here. All the Armenian voters do it this way,’ she told the Daily Star–rushing back to the car.

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