Politics & Economics

Lebanon will go to the polls on 6th May as election contest heats up

Middle East

Changes made to the electoral laws in Lebanon have led candidates to alter their strategies in their electoral campaigns. This is the first Parliamentary election to be held in Lebanon in 9 years.

Lebanon is set to hold its first election in 9 years on 6 May 2018. Additionally, this election is the first since 1960 to have been subject to new electoral laws. Previously, the elections had been conducted under ‘majority vote’. This year, however, the elections will be held under a ‘popularity vote’, meaning that the voters will cast two votes, one for the coalition, and one for the candidate. This change to the law allows the voters to see more clearly the policies of the coalition compared to the policies of the individual candidate.

This election has also given the Lebanese expat community the right to vote absentee, which was not permitted in previous elections. The Lebanese expats who have registered to vote are said to cover 33 countries across the globe, numbering approximately 82,965 voters, a fraction of the total 3.6 million individuals who are expected to vote in this election.

Of this number, about 700,000 are first time voters who have turned 21 in the last 9 years. Observes have noted that first time voters have notably increased their engagement with politics especially through civil society organisations and campaigns such as the “Take Action” campaign, which organised a free concert in a Beirut nightclub to spread political awareness amongst the youth.

The voters will be able to choose amongst 583 candidates in 77 lists who are competing for 128 seats, across 17 districts. The number of women running in the elections, 86, is considered a record number. Despite this, many female candidates have complained about the unfair treatment and coverage that they receive in comparison to their male counterparts.

Observers have pointed out that this year’s election is the least political and most ‘poetical’ elections in modern Lebanese history. Candidates are promising impossible pledges and are targeting areas based on sectarian make-up. Previously, the elections have seen coalitions between the different parties, mainly being the “8th of March”and “14th of March” coalitions. The “8th of March Alliance” which was initially the opposition coalition, included Hezbollah, Amal and the Free Patriotic Movement. However, they currently make-up the majority of the current parliament. Current President Michel Aoun belongs to the “8th of March Alliance”.

On the other hand, the “14th of March Alliance” which is headed by current Prime Minister Saad al Hariri, includes The Future Movement, the Independence Movement, and the Kataeb party.

This year, however, such coalitions are more uncommon.