Lebanon Elections

Verdict mixed among civil society voters

BEIRUT: When results for the parliamentary elections were finally revealed Monday evening, voters who had invested their hopes in independent civil society candidates were met with bitter news. Kilna Watani (All for the Nation), the nationwide alliance of independents, only saw success in Beirut I.

Late Monday evening, electoral machines across the board pinned television personality Paula Yacoubian from the Sabaa Party and journalist Joumana Haddad from LiBaladi as two of Beirut I’s new MPs.

Haddad’s success was thwarted the next morning when the count put Free Patriotic Movement candidate Antoine Pano as the ultimate winner of the district’s Christian-minority seat.

Controversy flared following the announcement, leading Haddad, various LiBaladi candidates and their supporters to demonstrate in front of the Interior Ministry.

But in the rest of the country, Kilna Watani did not succeed in swaying their potential constituents.

For voters and volunteers who passionately vied for the alliance’s success, the ultimate result was met with varied reactions.

Geryes Abboud who preferred not to provide his real name, is a business owner from Metn.

Speaking to The Daily Star Monday morning, the 25-year-old expressed deep disappointment in fellow voters in his district for failing to elect a single independent candidate to Parliament.

In the weeks leading up to the election, Abboud said he was hopeful.

He said he trusted that the “educated, well-traveled and wealthy residents” of Metn could realistically elect at least one independent candidate. By late Sunday, however, he was shocked to see his compatriots seemed to have voted for the same parties they had complained about for the past decade.

Abboud said he felt that those who voted for established parties and candidates had done so for personal benefit.

“I have serious thoughts on leaving Lebanon now. I feel shit about the future. The same people have been in power since the ’90s, so I know what to expect for the next four years,” he said.

“It’s not just about our failure to secure one seat. It’s about how far independent groups were from other sectarian parties in almost every place they ran. We are decades away from a secular state.”

Maria-Elena Kassab, a 29-year-old translator from Kesrouan’s, Jounieh said she felt the elections came with a “glimmer of hope.”

But, “with these results, the corruption we’re seeing, counting fraud and the whole entire electoral process, I really want to leave here,” said Kassab, a European Union passport holder. “I’m pretty angry because the results are so fresh, but at the same time perhaps I’ll go back to being resigned to this reality and trying to make the most with the hand we’ve been dealt. It’s always been a cycle.

“Something happens to make me want to leave immediately, and then I calm down and cool off.”

Despite her disappointment, Kassab said that she was not inspired to try and devote time to galvanizing political change in the coming months.

But 23-year-old Nur Turkmani, a research associate who voted for the all-women list in Akkar, said the election was just the beginning of a substantial change to come.

“When I cast my ballot, I didn’t think it would bring change, but it was symbolic nonetheless.

“On a national level, I expected these results.

“These elections haven’t changed how I see Lebanon for the worse.

“There were people who did come out and vote for independents,” she said.

“Now, it will take a lot of dedication and hard work for the real work to start.”

Others were not so optimistic. Yahya Mourad, a 27-year-old filmmaker from Tripoli, said he thought that Lebanon had once again reached a breaking point.

“Since a lot of people didn’t even bother to vote, a part of me believes that people want to riot,” he said.

“Elections were not a solution to Lebanon’s problems and perhaps people are looking elsewhere for some kind of solution.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 08, 2018, on page 4.

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