Pressure continues on the Shiite candidates in the Baalbek-Hermel district, where the Lebanese Forces party is leading an electoral battle against the Shiite duo, represented by Hezbollah and the Amal Movement.
Candidate Rifaat Al-Masry is the third Shiite candidate to announce his withdrawal from the electoral race, following a similar move by Ramez Nasser Qamhaz and Haiman Abbas Meshek.
In a press conference on Thursday, Masry said that he would withdraw from a list formed by the Lebanese Forces party, which includes Sunni and Shiite figures, headed by Sheikh Abbas Al-Jawhari. The latter is known for his opposition to the Shiite duo.
Masry explained that his move came upon the request of his family and based on his conviction that the electoral competition would “not lead to reform, in a country controlled by sectarian and confessional quotas.”
“We are the children of a family of resistance… with a political legacy and an ancient history, which is proud of weapons, the weapon directed against the Zionist and Takfiri enemies,” Masry said, in reference to Hezbollah’s arms.
Sources in the Lebanese Forces told Asharq Al-Awsat that the successive withdrawals came as the result of the pressure exerted on the opponents of Hezbollah and the Amal Movement.
“There is no doubt that the candidates were aware of the repercussions of their candidacy, and they had been subjected to pressure from the clans… But it seems that after the matter reached an advanced stage and the battle began to take a more serious turn, pressures increased and reached the point of threatening personal and family security,” the sources added.
Jawhari, for his part, does not seem to be considering a similar move.
His election campaign official, Abbas Raad, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the candidate was going on with his battle, and was even noticing an increase in the number of supporters despite all the pressure.
A video released on social media earlier this week documented a shooting at an electoral meeting, during which Jawhari was delivering a speech on the freedom to vote. The shooting sparked fear and confusion among the attendees, forcing them to leave the site.