The path and challenges of holding the 2022 elections in Lebanon… Who are the winners and losers?
Beirut – The political debate in Lebanon jumped to the stage of setting the date for the parliamentary elections and their preparations, after the electoral law became effective, which requires that they be completed before the end of the current parliament’s mandate on May 21, 2022, amid internal disagreements over the law and some accusing the Constitutional Council of politicization.
One of the most important contentious issues regarding the election law is that the Lebanese expatriates will vote for the 128 parliamentary seats according to their 15 constituencies, contrary to the proposal of the head of the “Free Homeland Movement” Gibran Bassil by voting only for 6 deputies to create a new constituency for them.
But the Constitutional Council did not take a decision on Bassil’s appeal because its members did not agree on a unified conclusion, so the latter launched a campaign against the duo, “Amal Movement” and “Hezbollah” on the basis that they had pushed for his appeal to be dropped, which reflected a public shake-up in his relationship with his first ally, Hezbollah.
Numbers and dates
Data from the Ministry of Interior show that the number of registered voters in the primary lists is about 3.97 million, including more than 225 thousand expatriates, which is a large number compared to the previous elections.
Parliament had recommended holding elections on March 27, but the Minister of Interior has the power to set another date.
“The effective electoral law was promulgated in 2017, with amendments made by Parliament recently that were the subject of challenge,” explained Paul Morcos, head of the human rights organization JUSTICIA, and legal expert.
Morcos indicates to Al Jazeera Net that the date is set by the Ministry of the Interior organizing the elections, passing through the government to President Michel Aoun to sign its decree.
He also said that the last deadline for holding it is the last Sunday before the end of Parliament’s mandate, i.e. May 15, 2022.
Aoun and his political team were refusing to hold elections on March 27. Journalist and political writer Youssef Diab notes that the Interior Minister will call for elections in May, and “Aoun has no excuse for not signing the decree calling for the electoral bodies.”
repercussions of the law
The adoption of the electoral law deepened the tension between the political forces, and its repercussions were evident on the government that has been unable to meet since mid-October, against the backdrop of the demands of the ministers of Hezbollah, Amal Movement and the Marada Movement to remove the judicial investigator, Tariq Al-Bitar, and the bloody events that followed in Tayouneh.
In an escalation by President Aoun, he described boycotting government sessions as an “unacceptable act of will,” stressing his refusal to sign decisions and decrees in the presence of a government with full constitutional descriptions.
The writer expects the confrontation to intensify after the electoral law became effective, “because Bassil (Aoun’s son-in-law), the owner of the largest Christian parliamentary bloc, is fighting a battle to restore his image, after the imposition of US sanctions on him, and the confrontation intensified on the Christian street with the Forces Party.”
He finds that Aoun’s escalation against Hezbollah is limited in the last year of his tenure, after he proved, in his opinion, “that he is an ally attached to Hezbollah, not an equal to it, and he dedicated his covenant to isolating Lebanon in exchange for its annexation to the Iranian axis.”
Here, writer and political analyst Johnny Mounir explains, to Al-Jazeera Net, that Hezbollah seeks to balance its two rival allies, the head of the Amal Movement and Parliament, Nabih Berri, and Gibran Bassil, “but the party’s priority is not to strain Shiite relations, and when it has a choice of Berri or Basil, he chooses what Berri wants.” .
Winners and Losers
The elections will determine the balance of power for political parties, and the new parliament session begins next June, and it must elect a new president for it, and elect a president of the republic by October 21, 2022.
Analysts have different opinions about the winners and losers of the electoral law, noting that most political forces did not launch their machines and slogans, and some link it to a lack of readiness, financially and morally, after the deteriorating situation in the country, and holding them responsible for the disasters that befell the Lebanese before public opinion locally and internationally.
Accordingly, the writer Diab approaches profit and loss with two criteria: first, the results of the practices of power forces after the October 17, 2019 uprising, and secondly, the affirmation of the right of expatriates to vote for 128 deputies, and its profound impact on the results.
He finds that there are partisan forces that will lose from the electoral law, specifically those that entered into power after the 2016 settlement that brought Aoun as president, i.e. the Free Patriotic Movement first, the Future Movement headed by Saad Hariri, and the parties in power that remained in power after the uprising.
The writer says that the Future Movement has not resolved the issue of running in the elections, and has begun to lose parliamentary seats since Hariri accepted the current electoral law in the 2018 elections, which strengthened the influence of Hezbollah and its allies and gave them a parliamentary majority. Consequently, “the Sunni street has become the most lost because it has lost a strong political reference.”
As for the duo of Hezbollah and the Amal movement, their battle is “not easy”, but they are “the strongest in the absence of competitors, and they do not lose at the Shiite level.”
And the winner – in the writer’s opinion – is the parties that left the government after October 2019, such as the Lebanese Forces and the Christian Phalange Party. He believes that the battle will take place over about 10 seats that will determine the parliamentary majority for one axis against another, and “Hezbollah’s battle is not about its environment, rather its Christian ally may lose some seats, and Basil has become a heavy burden that is difficult to market on his street and with his ally the Amal Movement.”
Political analyst Mounir expects that Basil’s team will be the main loser in the expatriate votes, because about 60% of the expatriates are Christians, and a large part of them emigrated in the past two years, most of them in the Gulf and Europe, and some of them resented the political practices of Aoun’s era.
He also says that the resident Christians are less than 30%, which Basil fears, about the rise in the shares of the “forces” as a Christian party standing against Hezbollah, especially after the Tayouneh events.
The political analyst believes that the civil forces will have a share in the votes of the expatriates and internally, if they organize themselves well and dispel their problems, and justify their regression that the battle will not reach its climax before next February.
However, academic and political researcher Tariq Abboud finds that the winners are the political forces that engineered the electoral law, and the losses will be limited to some seats, even for Basil’s team.
He tells Al Jazeera Net that the alternative options for the Lebanese are immature with its project, and it is expected that the new parliament will have the same balance as the current parliament, that is, the majority with Hezbollah and its allies.
The academic researcher clarifies that electoral surprises are possible if they take place under a new electoral law, such as making Lebanon a single district.
It is surprising to expect Basil’s team to lose the expatriate votes, suggesting that not all those who registered their names abroad will vote, pointing out that the votes are distributed among the constituencies, and their results will be dispersed and will not benefit any team alone, recalling that no one has accurate statistics about the political options of the expatriates.
He adds: The electoral law shackles the Lebanese, and every group votes in its sectarian and political place, and the Christian street is restricted by its historical choices, and those who are with Bassil’s team do not vote for the forces, for example.
Is holding elections in danger?
Writer Diab says that not holding the elections is very likely, and if “some weighty parties realize that they will lose some seats and their influence in the government will decline, they may seek to postpone them, and perhaps provoke sudden and shocking security events.”
For his part, political analyst Munir finds that most political forces do not want elections, but they are concerned about sanctions and international pressures, the latest of which is UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ stress on the necessity of holding them.
In his opinion, the actual fear is after the elections, specifically before the presidential elections, because it is the stage of restructuring the authority and the vision of the political system, which puts the country in difficult and dangerous labors.