On May 15, 2022, Lebanese voters cast their ballots in the first legislative elections held in the country since the explosion in Beirut leveled the eastern half of the capital in August 2020. Since then, the nation, mired in an economic crisis, The World Bank characterized as one of the world’s “worst episodes of crisis since the mid-nineteenth century,” sought constructive ways to end its political and economic stalemate.
defiant expectationsvoters allowed political newcomers associated with the October 17 uprising, which rocked the country at the start of its economic crisis in 2019, to land a historic place 13 seats traditional sectarian parties in Lebanon. Many see the victory as a seismic shift in politics in a country long dominated by corrupt sectarian elites – a loosening of sectarian politicians’ grip on Lebanese voters amid massive disillusionment with the sectarian political order. from Lebanon.
“The elections are over. The detailed results are quite instructive and show the potential for an organized, non-sectarian alternative in Lebanon. Our votes are distributed evenly between regions and sects. Given how bigoted our society still is, that’s an achievement in itself.@MichelHe pic.twitter.com/agkYNqCosj
— Karim Emile Bitar (@karimbitar) June 2, 2022
Opposition candidates broke into several sectarian strongholds.
This is the kind of intimidation faced by non-sectarian reformist political parties trying to campaign in Lebanon’s legislative elections. Beirut Takawum candidates were yelled at and intimidated by a group of pro-Hariri men as they tried to distribute leaflets to Tarik Jdideh pic.twitter.com/wCSy0jhvkX
— Sunniva Rose (@Sunniva_Rose) March 19, 2022
In Aley, a scenic mountainous neighborhood southeast of Beirut, voters from Lebanon’s Druze minority ousted longtime politician Prince Talal Arslan, electing reform-minded political newcomer Marc Daou and ending one of the oldest feudal dynasties of Mount Lebanon.
The list, ‘We United For Change’, won *3 seats* overall in a major breakthrough for independents, the campaign manager said.
— Timour Azhari (@timourazhari) May 16, 2022
The Arslans, who claim descent from the Lakhmid kings of ancient Iraq, were heavily involved in the politics of Mount Lebanon from the 1800s to the modern era. Prince Talal Arslan’s father, Prince Majid Arslan, played an important role in the independence of the small Mediterranean country from France in 1943, and was an integral part of the Lebanese parliament of the post-independence era. , occupying the Druze seat in the district of Aley. from 1931 until his death in 1983.
“I wouldn’t say that Marc Daou ousted the Arslans,” Makram Rabah, author and lecturer in the American University of Beirut’s Department of History, told Global Voices. “The Arslans were ousted, for several reasons. First, Prince Talal Arslan failed to understand that many Druze were no longer in the grip of mainstream political parties after October 17. The younger generation in particular chose to take a stand, and even older generations joined the children in voting for change.
“Second, Prince Arslan was completely oblivious to the fact that by aligning himself so openly with Hezbollah, he was alienating and antagonizing the Druze electorate of Mount Lebanon, who, back in May 7, 2008, has taken a strong stance against the invasion of its towns and villages by the Islamist militant group”.
In the first session of Parliament today, @DaouMarkone of Lebanon’s 13 independent deputies, entered with a poster showing the faces of the victims of the Beirut port explosion.
Independent MPs marched from the port to parliament – a symbolic gesture to demand justice for the victims. pic.twitter.com/1iDResQOMg
— Aya Iskandarani (@Aya_Isk) May 31, 2022
Bilal, from the Druze town of Choueifat who asked not to be called by his real name for security reasons, agrees. “In addition to his political alliances, which many found alienating, and his feudal title, which many found outdated, Prince Talal Arslan provided no reason why his constituents in Choueifat and elsewhere in Aley District vote to re-elect him.”
But not everyone agrees with this assessment. “If we are going to denounce Prince Talal Arslan for his alliance with Hezbollah, why don’t we denounce Walid Joumblatt for his alliance with the Lebanese Forces? asked Bahaa, an Arslan supporter in Choueifat, referring to the de facto leader of Lebanon’s Druze community and the Arslan family’s main Druze rival.
by Joumblatt Progressive Socialist Partyelectoral alliance with Christians lebanese forces proved controversial due to the two groups bloody story conflict during the Lebanese Civil War, which unfolded in a series of phases between the left-wing, pan-Arabist, pro-Palestinian Lebanese National Movement on the one hand, and the predominantly Christian, anti-Arabist Lebanese Front on the other. The war lasted from 1975 to 1990 and left around 120,000 dead and thousands injured.
Prince Arslan’s downfall was a long one, dating back to the Cedar Revolution of 2005 and the end of more than a decade of Syrian occupation, according to Dr. Rabah. “The beginning of the end for the Arslans began with the evacuation of the Syrian army from Lebanon in 2005,” he says. The Arslans have been strong allies of the Syrian state. “However, it was Iran’s growing influence in Lebanon at the expense of pro-Syrian elements that ultimately dealt the fatal blow”, not only to Prince Arslan but also to other pro-Syrian strongholds such as the Druze politician Weam Wahhab and Eastern Orthodox Vice President. of parliament Elie Ferzli.
The victory of Marc Daou in the district of Aley however still constitutes a triumph for the insurrection of October 17. “Druze citizens, including pro-Jumblatt, were heavily involved in the uprising,” says Dr Rabah, the most notable example being Alaa Abu Fakher, one of the early martyrs of the uprising who lost his life when an army officer shot him down as he attempted to block a road in the coastal town of Khaldeh south of Beirut.
Certain of Jumblatt’s victory, pro-Jumblatt voters may also have rallied to oust Prince Talal Arslan by voting for Marc Daou. “While I don’t think this was a move orchestrated by the pro-Jumblatt camp, Jumblatt didn’t exactly label the pro-reform opposition as enemies, which ultimately helped them make campaign and reach voters,” says Dr Rabah.
But ultimately, says Dr Rabah, it was Prince Arslan’s inability to properly assess the political atmosphere of the Druze community in the wake of Lebanon’s dramatic multidimensional collapse that cost him his seat. “He lost his seat because he didn’t understand how the Druze were thinking right now. Maybe he can make a comeback in the next elections if the electoral law changes in his favor, but he is a weak politician compared to Walid Jumblatt.
And while it is still too early to predict whether the October 17 uprising has become an institutionalized political force on Lebanon’s domestic political scene, Dr Rabah thinks there is no doubt that Marc Daou and the new pro-uprising MPs will leave their mark on Lebanese political institutions. , or at least try to do so. “The problem is not that the Lebanese are not able to lead change democratically,” he said. “The problem is that many traditional Lebanese political factions don’t really care about checks and balances or the democratic process.
“If the October 17 election victories proved anything,” Dr. Rabah concluded, “it is that change can happen if Lebanon’s democratic process is protected.”