The Controversial Lebanese Parliamentary Elections
Parliamentary election in Lebanon are scheduled on May 6, after postponing it several times since 2009. Last June, the parliament approved a new electoral law, which could significantly change the political calculus.
This law stipulates that each voter shall vote for one of the competing lists and shall be entitled to cast one preferential vote for a candidate of the same chosen list. Further, it has eventually granted the Lebanese immigrants their right to vote; has replaced the current plurality system with a system of proportional representation; increasing the sectarian diversity of MPs within each district and has reduced the number of electoral districts in the country from 26 to 15.
In Lebanon, the power balance between the various religious affiliations is a determining factor. Since the independence from the French Mandate in 22 November 1943, the Lebanese electoral system has followed sectarian allocations, entitled ‘consociational democracy.’ This designation prevents political mobilisation; therefore, the interests of outside powers take precedence over the interests of Lebanese voters who already court foreign support.
Seats in both the parliament and the government are allocated for the 18 different religious sects, which the Lebanon recognises. Per the constitution, the parliamentary electoral process take place every four years; however, the political unrest during the recent years has delayed this election, rankling voters and galvanising a campaign to change electoral laws. Moreover, it stipulates that the president is a Maronite Christian; the prime minister is a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of the parliament is a Shiite Muslim.
In the lead up to these elections, rival political actors fear the fact the new law is based on proportional representation across 15 electoral districts, which might fragment their positions. They have already announced their candidates as a prelude to forge electoral coalitions. Indeed, there is a consensus among the Lebanese to change the status quo through the ballot box and to protect the national interests throughout fighting corruption, the slumping economic and social conditions and the immense public deficit.
The expected election will take place after the consecutive political debates and since the former president; Michel Suleiman finished his term in 2014 without a successor. In October 2016, after two years of the presidential vacant, the Lebanese Politicians overcame the political deadlock, electing General Michel Aoun as president. During the last years, Lebanon has been considerably polarised because of the continuous political unrest, Zionist attacks, security drastic events and the impact of the Syrian civil war. With this situation, President Aoun would play an effective role in terms of implementing changes and reforms.
Undoubtedly, Aoun stores experience of having an ability to weave understandings, build national bridges, address diverse forces and demonstrate strong leadership to rebuild the state. Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement agreement with Hezbollah dates back to 2006 when they both signed a formal agreement of alliance and President Aoun has consistently backed Hezbollah ever since. Analysts consider that President Aoun’s impending election would be an immense victory for Hezbollah, in terms of its political allies as well as its position in Lebanon and a painful climb down for the Saudis after their disengagement with Lebanon since February 2018.
In the announcement of the electoral program for Hezbollah's MPs and the Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc, on 19 February 2018, Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah announced the Hezbollah’s 13 candidates, including new faces namely; Ibrahim Musawi, Ihab Hamadeh, Anwar Jomaa, Houssein Jishi and Hussein Zeaiter. He urged his followers to effectively take part in order to get the largest electoral outcome saying, “Your votes in favour of the Resistance’s candidates would preserve the blood of the martyrs who have fallen in the Resistance's path especially amid the current direct US interference in the region.”
Sayyed Nasrallah has confirmed Hezbollah’s durable electoral coalition with the Amal Movement in districts throughout Lebanon amid wide expectations that the two leading Shiite parties would capture most of the 27 parliamentary seats allotted for the Shiite sect. Sayyed Nasrallah said, “Be careful there are American-"Israeli" exercises. There are developments in the region and the world.” He asserted that the relative law allows people to take their natural size in contrast to the law of majority, stressing, “The great harvest that we have achieved in Lebanon has cost us dear blood and it is our responsibility to keep our country strong.”
“To the Lebanese, the upcoming parliamentary elections represent a serious opportunity for the Lebanese people to re-produce their national authority, benefiting from the state of stability and safety provided by the protection umbrella thanks to the equation of the army, the people and the resistance. The security presence in Lebanon is due to this equation. There is a dispute in the evaluation, but this is our opinion. There is a new electoral law based on proportionality in which we contributed greatly to its adoption. It will allow the Lebanese to better express their choices better and correct the parliamentary representation as much as possible,” Sayyed Nasrallah read.
After the 2005 assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri, the Lebanese public was divided, either supporting the March 8 Alliance i.e. Resistance axis, or the March 14 Alliance i.e. anti-Resistance axis. Disagreements between these two groups at the very beginning intensified, and then subsided correspondingly with political developments. Amid the consecutive Zionist-American-Saudi failures in the region, analysts expect that the coming election, which many Lebanese are awaiting enthusiastically, might interrupt almost the nine years of stability.
Since the adoption of the new law, which is based on the proportional representation system, electoral experts confirmed that the distribution of seats among the political forces was almost conclusive.Most politicians and heads of parliamentary blocs have characterized the upcoming elections as “decisive” and “crucial” as they will decide the country’s political future for the next four years.
It is obvious that those enemies, unfortunately aligned with some Lebanese actors, would react undesirably to any significant shifts in the Lebanese political scene; particularly in the favour of the Resistance. The stagnant political status quo would undermine in the long run due to the foreign blatant imperialist conspiracies. The Zionist-American-Saudi powers undoubtedly aim at to destabilising Lebanon’s stability, by either putting international pressure or by using local proxies.
Analysts, further, assume that the Saudis could leverage the power and launch an economic boycott over Lebanon as they have done with Qatar. Additionally, they increase the level of their aggressive threatening rhetoric anti Lebanon. In response to Lebanon’s failure to condemn attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran following the kingdom’s execution of a Shi’ite cleric, the Saudis cancelled a three billion dollar aid package for the Lebanese army.