BEIRUT: Lebanese municipal elections, due to be held in weekly stages up to the end of May, kicked off on Sunday in the Mount Lebanon area overlooking the capital.
With clan and family bonds the main focus rather than political loyalties, a registered electorate of 3.33 million is being called to the polls every Sunday apart from on May 16.
In Mount Lebanon, almost 800,000 Lebanese were electing municipal councils and mukhtars, or mayors.
Out of a total of 313 municipalities, 56 councils are not being contested as consensus lists have been agreed amid a political calm in Lebanon since a national unity government was formed last November.
But battle lines have been drawn up in large towns such as Jbail, a Christian area north of the capital, where supporters of Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s coalition face candidates of Michel Aoun, a parliamentary minority leader.
More than 7,500 candidates, including 466 women, are contesting 3,507 seats, after a proposal by Interior Minister Ziad Baroud to bring in a quota system for women failed to win approval in parliament.
Some 20,000 security personnel have been mobilized for the polling, Lebanon’s first local elections since 2004.