A secular coalition that ran in Lebanon’s parliamentary elections said on Tuesday it will legally challenge the defeat of one of its candidates, slamming the vote count as untransparent. Kulluna Watani, an alliance of civil society activists, had projected it would win at least two seats in the landmark May 6 vote — an achievement in a country with a deeply entrenched political class. But just one candidate, high-profile reporter Paula Yacoubian, scored a spot in the 128-member parliament. A second, writer and feminist activist Joumana Haddad, was expected to win according to several preliminary party counts, and had been tearfully celebrating with supporters on Sunday night. But as official results came in on Monday, it appeared Kulluna Watani had not scored enough votes to secure a second seat for Haddad.
Articles about voting issues in the Lebanese Republic.
Hezbollah has gained political ground in Lebanon and consolidated Iran’s influence on the fragile state’s affairs after winning, along with its allies, a small majority in national elections. The Shia militia-cum-political bloc’s gains came at the expense of the Sunni prime minister, Saad Hariri, whose authority was weakened by a relatively poor showing in stronghold areas. Many of Hariri’s traditional supporters appear to have stayed at home on Sunday for the first parliamentary vote in nine years. His patron, Saudi Arabia, cut Hariri adrift in November and remained disengaged in the lead-up to the vote. It offered no immediate reaction to the result. Hariri’s bloc, the Future Movement, lost one-third of its seats, and he blamed a “scheme” to “eliminate” it from the political process when speaking on Monday.
Hezbollah and its political allies are the biggest winners in Lebanon’s first general election in nine years, an analysis of the preliminary results show. Hezbollah and Amal – dubbed the “Shia duo” by local news media – are predicted to have won 29 seats in Lebanon’s 128-seat parliament during Sunday’s vote, according to unofficial tallies cited by politicians and local media reports. More than 11 seats are predicted to have been won by other political parties aligned with the duo. The long-awaited elections were marked by a voter turnout of just under 50 percent, down from 54 percent in the last legislative election in 2009, Nouhad Machnouk, Lebanon’s interior minister, said on Monday.
Lebanon’s first national elections in nine years were marked by a tepid turnout Sunday, reflecting voter frustration over endemic corruption and a stagnant economy. Politicians had urged citizens to vote, and security forces struggled to maintain order as fights broke out in and around polling stations. President Michel Aoun broadcast an appeal to voters to participate in a televised address an hour before polls closed in the evening. “If you want change, you should exercise your right” to vote, he said in a message published on Twitter at the same time.
Lebanon is gearing up for parliamentary elections slated for 6 May, with members of the country’s large expatriate community having already cast their votes in elections that have been seeing complex and intertwining alliances. The last time Lebanese politicians competed for seats in parliament was in June 2009. Nine years and a new electoral law later, three main factors have come into play. First, the elections are being held after the ratification of a law granting Lebanese nationality to the offspring of expatriates, pushed for by the Alawite Free Patriotic Movement headed by Foreign Minister Jibran Bassel. The law may attract more Christian voters, since most Lebanese abroad are Christians.
It has been nearly a decade since Lebanese citizens last had the opportunity to go to the polls, with the current parliament having on three separate occasions unilaterally renewed its mandate for reasons ranging from security risks caused by the war in neighboring Syria to the inability to agree on electoral reform. But following an agreement last summer to replace a plurality voting system with proportional representation, elections finally will be held on May 6. The new law also reduced the number of electoral constituencies (which may comprise more than one district) to fifteen, with seats allocated in each according to the size of the region’s population. Furthermore, parliamentary mandates within each constituency are reserved for various sects, including Sunnis, Shiites, Druze, Catholics, Protestants, Greek Orthodox, etc.…
Incidents of political violence including an assault on one candidate and an attack on the office of another are casting a shadow over Lebanon’s first general election in nine years. The May 6 vote will take place using a complicated new electoral law. It is not expected to cause major changes to the government or its policies. Analysts expect Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri will head the next cabinet. But the law has made the outcome less predictable in some places. This has sharpened local rivalries and is encouraging parties to campaign extra hard.
The last parliamentary elections in Lebanon were held nine years ago. Since then, the country has seen its executive body sit vacant for two years, watched parliament extend its tenure twice, and witnessed a prime minister abruptly resign and just as suddenly retract his resignation. A new electoral law, passed last summer, staved off a major political deadlock that threatened to leave the country without a parliament – and the bill set a vote deadline of May 2018. But as the country prepares to put the new electoral law to the test, many Lebanese expressed scepticism and a lack of enthusiasm for the May 6 parliamentary elections.
Members of the ministerial committee charged with examining the implementation of the new electoral law have admitted that it was impossible to apply the technical reforms stipulated in the law, with the parliamentary elections due on May 6. While the committee’s meeting on Tuesday, chaired by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, did not result in any decision on the matter, ministers have expressed clear stances towards the implementation of the reforms, in the wake of sharp disputes over the adoption of the biometric voting card and the mega center, which allows voting in place of residence. Ministerial sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that differences persisted over technical reforms, pointing out that any amendment in the law “requires prior agreement before submitting it to Parliament – a task that seems difficult so far.”
On Friday, June 16th, Lebanon quietly ended one of the longest stretches of government paralysis in post-Second World War history. The parliament met to ratify a new electoral law that will govern national elections next year, nearly a decade after the last parliamentary polls were held. The law’s proponents claim that it will improve representation for the many sects that compose the country’s religiously diverse population. They say it also addresses demands by civil-society groups who have railed against the propensity of the political élite to pass power down through the generations and keep reformists at bay. In Beirut, there is both cynicism and optimism about what the new law might deliver. Mostly, though, one senses an uncertainty about the future—a familiar enough feeling in a country that endured a brutal, fifteen-year civil war, but unfamiliar in other ways. There is a genuine wondering-aloud as to whether a new chapter in Lebanon’s history might be about to begin, and some hope that a political system built on the principle of fostering coexistence might be insulated from a region wracked by sectarianism.