New Lebanese movement says wins 40 percent of Beirut municipal poll

BEIRUT (Reuters) - A new Lebanese protest movement said on Tuesday it had won 40 percent of the vote in weekend municipal elections and hailed the result as a blow against the political establishment even though it failed to win any council seats.

A Lebanese election official counts ballots after the polling station closed during Beirut's municipal elections in Lebanon, May 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

Beirut Madinati (Arabic for ‘Beirut is my city’) built its support on public discontent with a failing government and presented itself as an alternative to long-dominant sectarian parties.

Its main opponents, the Beirutis list, backed by established groups including the Future Movement of Sunni Muslim former prime minister Saad al-Hariri, won all 24 seats on the municipal council in Sunday’s election with just under 60 percent, or more than 47,000 votes.

Beirut Madinati said the nearly 32,000 votes it won showed the electorate had had enough of the status quo.

“The final results of the municipal election in Beirut show that people are for change,” it said in a statement.

Turnout was about 20 percent of the electorate.

“Our list faced the steamroller of authority and the ruling class in its different forms and was able to get 40 percent,” it said, describing its support as a cross-sectarian, “popular protest” against the establishment.

Lebanese parliamentary elections scheduled for 2013 have been postponed twice due to political instability exacerbated by the war in neighboring Syria. Municipal elections are due to be held in other areas of the country over the next two weeks.

Beirut Madinati 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.

Those protests were organized independently of the main parties, which are formed along sectarian lines to reflect a system of government that divides power on a sectarian basis.

Lebanon’s political crisis, exacerbated by the war in Syria, has also left the country without a head of state for two years.

The government meanwhile struggles to take even basic decisions due to deep differences between the rival parties represented in it.

Reporting by John Davison; Editing by Gareth Jones