In Lebanon, day of mobilization for the first legislative elections since the start of the crisis

This is a first since October 2019. The Lebanese were called to the polls, Sunday, May 15, for the first legislative elections since the start of the socio-economic crisis which has shaken the country. An important security device has been deployed for this election to which some 3.9 million voters are called who must renew the 128 members of Parliament until 7 p.m. local time. Crowds were low in most areas at midday. And local media reported power cuts in several polling stations. The results are expected on Monday.

>> Lebanon: legislative elections against a backdrop of economic disarray

This is a first test for independent candidates and opposition groups that emerged after the popular uprising, accused of corruption and incompetence. However, the ballot should maintain the status quo in favor of the traditional political forces. The elections are held in accordance with a law adopted in 2017, to the advantage of the ruling parties, and in the absence of the main Sunni leader, Saad Hariri, who is boycotting them.

The 2018 legislative elections were dominated by the powerful pro-Iranian Shiite Hezbollah and its allies, notably the Free Patriotic Movement (CPL) of President Michel Aoun and the Shiite Amal movement of the Speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri. A large part of the candidates, among the traditional parties and the independents, this time campaigned with “sovereignty” slogans, accusing Hezbollah of serving the interests of Iran and maintaining its hold on Lebanon thanks to a large military arsenal.

In regions where Hezbollah has a strong presence, the voting process was marred by incidents between supporters of rival formations. According to the Lebanese Association for Election Democracy (Lade), responsible for supervising the election, several of its members were attacked in polling stations, some in the Bekaa, Hezbollah stronghold. In the same region, the Christian party of the Lebanese forces, strongly opposed to the weapons of the Shiite party, announced that several of its delegates were beaten and driven out of polling stations.

Lebanese soldiers walk past a banner of the Shiite Hezbollah movement on May 15, 2022. (MAHMOUD ZAYYAT / AFP)

Caused by decades of mismanagement and corruption, the social and economic crisis in Lebanon has been ranked by the World Bank as the worst in the world since 1850. In nearly two years, the national currency has lost more than 90% of its black market value and the unemployment rate nearly tripled. And according to the UN, nearly 80% of the population now lives below the poverty line.

Despite popular anger, the political class is taking advantage of the absence of the state, which is now unable to provide basic services, to activate its networks of traditional community patronage which rely on financial aid. As summarized by researcher Sam Heller in an article published by the American think tank The Century Foundation (in English) : “Paradoxically, the first national elections in Lebanon since the start of the crisis seem unlikely to make much of a difference.”

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