Lebanese people have not participated in this “democratic exercise” since 2009, because of the violation and abuse of power and the occupation of the parliament with 3 illegitimate extensions. (Lebanese were supposed to vote in 2013)
Needless to say, quite lot has happened since 2009 in Lebanon and the region: the Arab Spring, the uprisings and revolutions being the most significant.
Parties holding power in Lebanon broke their alliances formed in 2005 (8 March, 14 March) and now have somehow created links between all of them through coalitions and partnerships. The most significant breaking up of this polarity happened with the elections of Aoun in October 2016.
It is sadly not the goal of this article to write about this saga. The website Moulahazat goes into much details.
Before the “election” of Aoun, Lebanese people voted for their municipalities in May 2016, and the Beirut municipality battle showcased that parties will gather and ally in order to face new forces. All parties but Hezbollah (who had no big interest in a seat in the Beirut municipality) joined arms together and still barely won against Beirut Madinati list, an independent list.
The many combinations to first beat down a new possible force in Beirut and then to end the presidential crisis created somehow a new political reality, or just revealed what is the real nature of all powerful parties in Lebanon.
And thus, unsurprisingly, when the parliamentary elections got closer and it was time to form lists, a lot of alliances from the parties in power were formed. Alliances were formed on the basis of getting the highest votes and ensure seats in parliament, and was not based on the basis of any political identity or program. (Besides holding power as much as they can and as long as they can).
The Free Patriotic Movement, led by Gebran Bassil, is the best example for such alliances formed. Very often, it has allied with a group in X district, only to be against the same group in Y district. Once again suggesting that political opinions don’t really matter, only seats.
But is there a chance for change? And what is change?
The answer is no, there is no possibility for significant change.
Firstly, to speak about a “chance for change”, we assume that the two following conditions will be fulfilled:
1) A significant parliamentary seat change is possible and this change will benefit the new comers and their supporters.
2) We assume that this re-allocation of seats could lead to a form of a positive radical change.
Condition 1): A study published show that only 38 seats will be truly subject to change, while the wide majority of seats will simply get back to their old seat holders. Some new lists and coalitions have a small change of getting new seats. A “chance for radical change” is not realistically possible in the parliament and the country.
2) Some candidates from the new comers lists, especially on the wide lists of Kulluna Watani or other seats like Madaniye in the Chouf are presenting a strong agenda and some strong progressive positions for Lebanon. Some candidates from Kulluna Watani and other independent are not only on point with human rights values, but with the economy itself. (The two can’t be separated).
The ruling parties won’t prepare their own poison.
The electoral law makers (MP’s and the power holders in this country) didn’t cook the electoral law dish in order to poison themselves. They know that this law, despite a few new entries here and there, will work to their benefits. Of course, only time will tell what the size of their losses will be, but the few seats won’t be enough to radically change the country. (neither will any elections).
It is a complex law, to say the least, but it is also a law that could allow “breaches”, Megaphone, a channel on Facebook and other social media platforms, explain it pretty well.
Voting is important because it could reveal first an approximation of the support new comers lists are receiving. Voters can be eventually new members of the groups that are trying to change things for the better in this country. Voters for the alternative, independent and progressive groups could be the base support for the groups to further grow.
The vote will be a first step to eventually grow and re-organize political groups and ideologies. If the parliament doesn’t self extend, we might witness a new stronger political coalition in 2022.
Hundreds of thousands of people who never voted could vote now, (the people from 20 to 29 years old), and they might push a new force within the parliament.
Today the voting law gives us finally the right to choose a candidate within a list. So we voters have the chance to choose a list not only according to its ideology on paper, but also specifically to each one’s history and positions.
A “preferential” vote supposedly mean that better candidates could get a seat (but not necessarily due to the complex electoral law).
A vote should be given to someone with a full and progressive program. And to a group that work with full transparency regarding their funding. Here are some points that should be fulfilled in my point of view.
- Ensuring full rights and liberties for everyone in the country, and working with the oppressed minorities so that they can have full self-determination, rights, and freedoms, (and not co-opt their struggle).
- Disapprove and reject neoliberal policies for the country. (Full liberalization, focus on finances, PPP’s etc, amass public debt,)
- Ensuring universal rights: water access, electricity access, free education, free universal healthcare, free public spaces, affordable and accessible housing.
- Ensuring transparency during their work in the parliament and full access to information to everyone.
- Ensuring the country is not a political chessboard of foreign nations in the region and beyond.
Tools to help us choose:
Needless to say, do not vote for the parties in the current government, do not vote for parties with blood on their hands, (from the times of the civil war or other times), do not vote for parties that receive their funding from outside countries, do not vote for parties who self-extended their MP’s 3 times, do not vote for anyone that allied with the current power holders.
In order to help us better choose, we might take a look at Mist3ideen. Mist3ideen is a group of activists who try to look at who might the better candidate (especially from the new comers) by their standard, their list is helpful and detailed.
Human Rights Watch also published a list of candidates or parties that respect their 10 human rights points:
Why is this election somehow important?
If the results are favorable to the diverse candidates from civil society, this is will be a test for them. New MP’s might not bring radical change, some might even serve the ruling class consciously or unconsciously, but some others might bring a new image to the Lebanese MP.
One that communicates with people, one that is accessible, one that asks the government pertinent questions, one that serves the interests of the many, not the few.