LF's Karam Wins Koura Election by 1,300-Vote Margin amid 47% Turnoutإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Lebanese Forces candidate Fadi Karam on Sunday won the Koura by-election by an unofficial margin of 1,300 votes, following a fierce electoral battle with Syrian Social National Party candidate Walid al-Azar.
The LF’s campaign said Karam won the election with 12,507 votes as Azar received 11,262 votes.
For his part, Hanibaal Karam, media officer of SSNP's campaign, acknowledged the defeat.
“Tomorrow is a new day and the LF must prove that it will work for the sake of Koura's residents and that it is a party of openness and culture and we welcome whoever works for the sake of the Lebanese,” Karam said.
“This by-election will boost our enthusiasm in the future and we would have preferred this battle to remain among the district's residents instead of depicting it as a regional battle and we thank everyone who stood by us,” he added.
Polling stations closed at 7:00 p.m. in a vote that did not witness any security incident despite a heated political battle.
The Ministry of Interior announced a voter turnout of 47 percent, a rate similar to that recorded in the 2009 parliamentary elections.
LF leader Samir Geagea told LBCI: "We considered that the victory of the SSNP candidate would have represented a victory for the Syrian regime which is suffering one defeat after another in its country."
"If they are accusing us of receiving foreign funds, which is untrue, we will tell them that they are supported by foreign forces financially, materially and morally," Geagea added.
Geagea stressed that the victory does not only belong to the LF, “but also to the public opinion in Koura and all March 14 forces.”
He also noted that the entire March 8 camp was defeated.
Geagea’s ally, former premier Saad Hariri, congratulated the victorious Karam, noting that "Koura's choice today is an indisputable indication of the adherence of the Lebanese to the project of the state."
The names of 57,537 eligible voters appeared on the electoral rolls. Those who participated cast their votes at 128 polling stations.
The majority of voters belong to the Greek Orthodox sect, followed by Maronites, then Sunnis, and then Shiites.
According to preliminary numbers announced by Karam’s campaign, the by-election witnessed the participation of 37% of the Greek Orthodox voters, 43% of the Maronites, 45% of the Sunnis, 53% of the Shiites and 53% of the Alawites.
Meanwhile, as the rival candidates and their campaigns traded accusations of electoral bribery, the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections -- an activist group that monitored the vote -- said it was not able to verify any report of electoral bribery.
“The LF's candidate is enjoying a clear lead and remarks about electoral bribe are shameful,” LF bloc MP Antoine Zahra told al-Jadeed television.
For his part, Hanibaal Karam, media officer of SSNP's campaign, told MTV: “We're optimistic and our result will be honorable in any case. Our rivals failed to turn the by-election into World War III.”
During the electoral day, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel met with Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn at the latter’s Koura residence, in the presence of ex-SSNP chief Jebran Araiji and former SSNP MP Salim Saade.
Speaking to reporters outside a polling station in Kfar Aaqqa, Charbel announced that voter turnout hit a rate similar to that recorded in 2009.
Meanwhile, the LF slammed the surfacing of a fake website attributed to candidate Karam and containing remarks against the Sunni voters.
“LF sources have cautioned that there is a fake website attributed to candidate Fadi Karam that is publishing fake news and comments about the Sunni voters,” Radio Voice of Lebanon (100.3-100.5) reported.
But SSNP's campaign spokesman Karam denied any link to the fake website.
“We have nothing to do with fabricating the fake website attributed to candidate Karam and our ethics do not allow us to do that,” he told MTV.
LF's media department said the fake website “resembles the ‘Shabiha’ who fabricated it and their masters,” noting that the party “will file a lawsuit with the relevant judicial authorities.”
In another incident, the Army Command denied remarks by MP Nicolas Ghosn that army vehicles were used to transport voters in the town of Kosba, stressing that "the army has nothing to do with the electoral process and its details except concerning preserving security for citizens so that they can perform their right to cast their votes."
The election will serve as a trial for the 2013 parliamentary elections due to the LF and SSNP political campaigns that pitted the March 14 candidate against the March 8 one, reported the daily An Nahar on Sunday.
Besides Karam and Azar, four other candidates contested the empty seat: Youssef Skaff, Jean Mefrej, Naeem al-Oujaimi and Georges Matar.
Azar told MTV after casting his vote in Amioun: “This is not a strictly democratic battle despite the positive atmosphere at the polls.”
“We are confident of victory and the turnout is not bad so far,” he added.
Karam had also cast his vote in Amioun.
Charbel hoped in remarks to Radio Voice of Lebanon (93.3) that the election would take place without incident, stressing that the necessary security measures were taken to avert any unrest.
He is set to announce the official results of the election on Monday morning, reported MTV on Sunday.
Deputy Speaker Farid Makari voiced to An Nahar his confidence that the LF candidate would win, expressing his satisfaction with the security measures that were taken in the area.
He declared that every vote counts, reiterating LF leader Samir Geagea’s remarks on Friday that the by-election would mark the first stage in the battle to topple Syrian influence in Lebanon.
SSNP official Hassan Saqr stated that the elections would take place in a “civilized manner.”
“The party is heading to the election to win it,” he told An Nahar.
He expected that a small number of votes would separate the winner from the loser, noting an increased presence of expatriates heading to the polls.
The Koura by-election was aimed at filling the Greek Orthodox parliamentary seat left vacant by the death of MP Farid Habib.