How To Make Sure You Can Vote In The 2017 Lebanese Parliamentary Elections

In theory, on May 21st, 2017, Lebanon will be voting for a “new” parliament for the first time since June 2009. It is our duty as citizens, therefore, to make sure that nothing stands in our way from making sure we hold our MPs accountable, to the best of our capacities given the law they are tailoring to make sure they return to power.

In order for you to be an eligible voter in Lebanon, you must be over 21, have no felonies on your judiciary record and, subsequently, have your name be listed on your hometown’s voters register. Every year, on February 10th, the Lebanese ministry of interior publishes all of Lebanon’s voting lists for voters to access them and make sure they are listed correctly.

As such, it’s our duty at this point to make sure that our names are not listed incorrectly or with missing data that could prevent us from voting on Election Day.

Case in point, during last year’s municipal election, I was a representative at the polling station for my father who was running for “mekhtar,” and we faced more than a dozen of voters who had their voting rights challenged because of mistakes in the government’s voting list.

All of this could be prevented by us being diligent.

Step 1: Go to this website (click).

Step 2: Click on القوائم الإنتخابية.

Step 3: Go to your proper mohafazat, caza, and village. Then select your sect as well as gender and sift through the document for your registry number.

If you find any mistakes in your registration, head to your hometown’s mekhtar with your ID. They would fill out a paper that you’d take to your caza’s “ma2mour l nfous” for them to fix your registration information. The whole process takes minutes, and the deadline is March 10th.

It’s our right as citizens to vote and hold those who have taken away our right to vote two times now, and hopefully not a third time, accountable. Let’s not let some silly mistake in our registration be enough reason for some political representatives at our polling place to challenge that right.

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How Lebanon’s Parliament Was Worse Than A School Classroom In Voting For a President


Ladies and gentlemen, those are the people that represent us, the ones we voted for, the ones who then stopped us from voting for them again because we all know that’s what will happen anyway as you only need to look at the orange streets of Lebanon to see how engrained things are.

127 Lebanese MPs, a near full quorum, gathered for the first time since they were elected to vote Michel Aoun as the president of the Lebanese Republic, after 45 failed attempts to vote for a president, stretched over two and a half years of stalemate.

Attending the election process were ambassadors and dignitaries from all around the world who were invited to be there. I bet most of those attending were just there to watch our parliament and the people who are our face to the world show everyone exactly how ridiculous they are, and how abysmally pitiful this country they’re representing has become.

The first round starts. Yes, parliament is equipped with electronic voting but who needs technology anyway? It’s pen and paper. The vote count is underway. One vote is for Myriam Klink, another is for Gilbert Zwein. Those two votes rob Michel Aoun the opportunity to gloat in winning the presidential vote from the first round. Of course, this was intentional.

But let’s take a moment to let the idea that our MPs believe casting ballots for women is a joke. 

To note, parliament has 4 women members out of 128. 

To continue the humiliation of Aoun to the presidency, some other MP figured it would be a good idea for them to drop two ballots inside the voting box instead of one.

If in naivety one would think the first time was a mistake, leading the second round to be canceled in order to go to a third one, the same thing then happened again. Childish? Silly? You name it.  

Cue in the ruckus. How is it that a parliament is failing so irrevocably at doing the only thing it’s been meant to do for the past two years?

Hear an MP here shout for ballots in different colors. Hear an MP there demand for a voting booth because that’s what will fix things. Hear them all be so disorganized, so all over the place, so loud and unaware of what they are doing they you might as well have been observing a kindergarten agglomeration of toddlers, and even that would be slightly more civil.

To say that in voting for a president Lebanon’s parliament has shown exactly how inept it is at running the country is an understatement. 

Those are the same people entrusted to agree on an electoral law in the next few months, and they couldn’t even vote for an unopposed candidate that nearly 2/3 of them supported. A process that should have taken 30 minutes ended up taking 2 hours plus, and then you hear them nag about how the process is taking longer than you thought.

I didn’t think I’d see the day when even voting for a president that the country hasn’t had for two years would turn into a joke, but it did.

The sad part is that this maskhara doesn’t even matter. A few months from now, we will vote for parliament and most of those 127 faces whose names we had to hear repeated at us 4 times because they were so efficient will be back in those same seats, and it’s just so unfortunate. They make alliances however it suits them personally, not how it suits the country best. They attend sessions whenever they’re free not every single time because that’s what they were voted to do. They play with our future like a yo-yo and then make a fool out of themselves and the country they’re representing in doing so. And they’re always above reproach. 

Until then, congrats to Michel Aoun. Here’s hoping he ends up being a better president than his political track record has shown him to be. 

Tripoli Is Not A Sectarian City, It’s The Only City To Be Respected These Elections 


Robert Fadel, you have failed your city. 
Lebanese media, you have failed Tripoli yet again and the country once more.

Lebanese people of all kinds, you have fallen once more to your preconceptions about Lebanon’s poorest city and turned it, once again, to a sectarian haven where those scary-Christian-hating Sunnis reign supreme.

On Sunday, May 29th, Tripoli entered the Lebanese history books by being the only major city this election cycle to deliver what everyone can’t but call the biggest democratic political upheaval in Lebanon.

With a dismal 26% voting rate, the people of that city shut down a list that included Hariri’s Future Movement, Miqati, Safadi, Karami, and other factions from the city, sending them to a deafening loss facing a list backed by Rifi.

Their list was running under the slogan of uniting the “Sunni ranks.” To do so, they were backed by the Mufti of Tripoli and had Islamists in their ranks. If Tripoli were sectarian, it would have voted for them. And yet it didn’t. 

Say what you want about Rifi, and I’m not a fan in the very least, but there is a special air to one man single handedly beating giants who thought they could get people to fall in line once more, vote them in once again, and watch them do as they please to the place they call home, which is ruin it and make sure it never amounts to its full potential, which is what they’ve been doing all together for the past 10 years.

It is also the epitome of irony that Rifi beat Hariri, with him being a man who embodies the values that Hariri used to stand for before selling out. It is the mother of failures to be beaten by a man who promises to be harsher on those who killed your father than you.

But that’s not the full story.

Tripoli voted for change. It did what no other major city in this country did. It refused its status quo. It told the country and its major politicians with all their billions and might to go screw themselves. You can’t but salute that.

In voting for change, though, Tripoli’s municipal council turned out to be purely constituted of Muslim Sunnis. The outcry from such a council was immense. How could they? Lebanon’s media cried. I am so upset I will quit, wept now-resigned MP Robert Fadel.

It is also immensely ironic that an MP who was probably spotted in his home city around 5 times in the past 7 years resigns from a parliament in protest of Christians not breaking into that city’s municipal council, but not because he has utterly and irrevocably failed his city in his entire parliamentary tenure. Where was Mr. Fadel’s outrage when the people of Tripoli spent sleepless nights under the barrage of mortar missiles? Where was the outrage when his city’s reputation became that of a place only known for terrorism? Where was the outrage when his city became the Mediterranean’s poorest city? 

The fact of the matter is that Mr. Fadel is a continuation of the horrific Lebanese mentality that an MP is only a representative of their sect, and not as the constitution says, of the entire country. Mr. Fadel, that Sunni you’re upset has taken the spot of a Christian in a municipal board is as much as your constituency as that Christian. 

You can’t blame Robert Fadel much, however. He did something that 126 of his colleagues should have done years ago. It’s a shame he’s doing it under the pretext of setting himself as a Christian figure for the context of an electoral law that might see him need the votes of Christians outside of Tripoli.

But I digress. The fact of the matter is that the Sunnis of Tripoli voted for Christians and Alawite municipal members in droves. Those candidates simply did not win.

On Sunday, May 29, 700 Christians voted in Tripoli out of tens of thousands of registered voters. Christian candidates got over 15763 votes total result. The last winning candidate got 15914. That’s a 150 vote difference only that’s getting everyone to panic. Yes, those 15,763 votes are mostly Sunnis. But never mind, they’re scary.


Tripoli has sectarian people, like any other Lebanese city or town, but it’s not a sectarian city. No city with its history of diversity can be as such. 

How can we cry sectarianism in Tripoli when property sale ads in Christian areas in the country specify the buyer needs to be a Christian? 

How can we cry sectarianism in Tripoli for fear of the fate of the city’s Christians when they didn’t even bother to vote? Also please note that Tripoli’s Christians probably couldn’t care less and have more faith in their Muslim neighbor and friends than someone like Robert Fadel who is supposed to represent them but couldn’t even manage them to get them to vote? 

How can we cry sectarianism when another major city had the list that won wage the following campaign: 


A municipal council should not be defined by the religion of its members. I’m sure the new municipal council in Tripoli will work for the whole city.

Tripoli, you may not have voted the way I wanted on Sunday, but you should be immensely proud in you saying no to your reality and seeking out change. Beirut Madinati tried in Beirut. It did well but did not succeed. Other alternatives to the political hegemony tried in other places and did not succeed as well. Political hegemony was brought to its knees on your streets. Respect. 

Let’s Make Tripoli Great Again

Tripoli lebanon

Around 3 weeks ago, many of us had one thing on our minds: Beirut’s municipal elections and how the independent civil movement list Beirut Madinati would do against the agglomeration of all political parties in power.

We had high hopes, not for them to win, but for a good showing that would cause a ripple in Lebanon’s political stagnation. Beirut Madinati delivered. For many, that may have been the end of Lebanon’s municipal election talk, but it’s far from the case.

Today, it’s time we turn our attention towards a city that needs it much more than Beirut, a city that has the potential that Beirut does but is entirely forgotten, assumed to be a sectarian haven of extremism and is ruled by billionaires with a feudal mentality who see its streets as nothing more than sectors for their taking.

Today, we need to talk about Tripoli and the vote the city is coming to this Sunday on May 29th.

To put things in perspective, let’s talk facts:

–   Tripoli is the 2nd biggest city in the country.

–   It’s home to around half a million people, the majority being Muslim Sunnis.

–   It’s home to the richest man in the country, Najib Miqati. He has been a prime minister two times.

–   It is one of the oldest cities in the country, and has the biggest old souk in Lebanon, far bigger than Jbeil’s or Saida’s. The old Souk has fallen into disrepair.

–   The port of Tripoli, once one of the region’s most important ports when it comes to trade, has fallen way behind and is now a shell of what it used to be.

–  The previous municipality that ruled Tripoli over the past 6 years came about from an agreement between the different political parties of the city, notably the Future Movement, Safadi and Miqati. It was the worst municipal board the city has ever seen, from their worries about banning alcohol ads in the city at a time when the city was being ravaged by war, to them letting the reputation of their city become, slowly and surely, that of a city no one should visit.

–  Tripoli is Lebanon’s poorest city, with around 30% of its people living in severe poverty. The Bab el Tebbaneh neighborhood is, according to all UN-led research, Lebanon’s poorest. The area didn’t even have a functional school at a certain point a couple of years ago.

–  Tripoli has one of Lebanon’s highest unemployment rates, especially when it comes to its youth, despite it having relatively high education levels given its proximity to many universities. Latest statistics place that number at around 36%.

The reality is much more horrific than to be summarized by a few bullet points. And, as they’re used to, Lebanon’s political establishment is trying to take over the city once again for 6 years by coming together against all of the other component’s in the city in an attempt for self-preservation.

After an uphill climb and very tough negotiations, Miqati and Hariri managed to come up with a list of 24 candidates, of various backgrounds, to try and keep the municipal board. Those 24 people have nothing to do with the previous board, but as the famous saying goes: “Insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Is it fair for Tripoli and for us as Northerners to have our capital stay the way it was for the next 6 years? Stagnation is not different from falling back.

Hariri and Miqati’s list, “For Tripoli,” is faced by three other lists. The first: “Tripoli’s Decision” is backed by Rifi, and has the highest chances of breaking into the municipality. The second: “Tripoli Capital” is backed and headed by former MP Mosbah el Ahdab and has 13  other people from various backgrounds, most of whom are from the civil society. The third list is: “Tripoli 2022” and has four candidates from the civil movement.

On Sunday, May 29th, the people of Tripoli have a real chance at taking their city back from the clutches of those who haven’t known but how to cause it harm for the past 6 years. It’s time to say that their unity only serves their own interests and not the interests of our city. It’s time to say that enough is enough, that the city needs a mayor who’s worried about its youth than about stupid beer ads, that the city needs people with a vision, people who want to give its people healthcare, a better reputation, education, people who want to make Tripoli great again.

The need to vote against those that turned Tripoli into a war zone couldn’t be higher. For that reason, this blog endorses the list “Tripoli Capital” along with the four members of “Tripoli 2022” for the municipal board as well as the candidate for “Citizens within a State” because they’re a combination that has the most potential to set the city on a path that befits it. This makes my endorsed list a set of 19 individuals.

A few days ago, Tripoli became the first Lebanese city to have a bike lane. The potential is there. The city can become a capital for the North and the country again. The city can be the great city it once was again. I hope its people see the potential in them and their hometown and act on it.

 

Sectarianism & Islamophobia: Jounieh Wants To Become The “Christian Capital” of Lebanon


On the slope of how low some electoral programs can sink to try and attract votes, the FPM-backed “Karamet Jounieh” takes the cake.

You’ve probably seen their billboards all over the highway. From their super lame: Weina Jounieh? To them revealing it was “MasJounieh” before launching into a full blown attack about how they would bring back Jounieh’s dignity.

Now, 2 days before Jounieh votes, they went full force into the attack by proclaiming they would make Jounieh the “capital of Middle Eastern Christians.”

Out of a 9 point platform tackling various aspects of the city’s life, making it the capital of Christians in Lebanon was their #1 priority with it being the top point on their list.

How would they accomplish so? By building a multitude of Churches and religious centers for Near-East Christians to feel closer to each other so that if “Copts in Egypt are affected, we feel it in Lebanon as well.”

Because, you know, the hundreds of thousands of Muslims dying across the Middle East don’t deserve us “feeling it as well” because they don’t pray that way, or that we, as Lebanese, are supposed to “feel” with the Christian in South Sudan before we feel with our fellow Lebanese in Bab el Tebbaneh, simply because that Lebanese is not Christian.

Let us make Jounieh the capital of Christians. While we’re at it, why don’t we make Beirut or Tripoli the capital of Sunnis? Why don’t we make Tyr the capital of Shiites as well? I mean, why not? If Christians are supposed to have their own city, then why shouldn’t other sects too? Why doesn’t Keserwen then just secede into the Democratic Republic of Maronistan with Harissa in the center of its flag and be done with it?

This kind of xenophobic and horrific rhetoric has no place in elections aiming for LOCAL development in 2016. “Karamet Jounieh” claims that them wanting their city to become the capital for Christians is to face the persecution affecting Christians in the Middle East and to further solidify the importance of Jounieh with its strong Christian history.

For a moment there, I thought Daesh was at the footsteps of Maameltein and that Jesus did not come out of Nazareth but of Haret Sakher and Maronites did not get persecuted in the mountains of North Lebanon, but in the streets of Sarba.

In the face of such disgusting slogans, I invite this blog’s followers who vote in Jounieh to refuse such hateful, xenophobic notions and to vote for the list opposing “Karamet Jounieh” on Sunday, which is the list calling itself “Jounieh El Tajaddod.”

At a time when Christians in Beirut refused to be treated with the hateful, segregating rhetoric that Karamet Jounieh is giving its people in Jounieh by voting for Beirut Madinati, the last thing we need in this country is for such divisive talk to be center stage in any elections. Less fear and hate, more tolerance.

What Beirut’s Election Results Tell: Lebanon Can Hope For Change

Beirut Madinati - bIERTE list 2016 2

This post was written with Ramez Dagher from Moulahazat

As promised earlier, this is the more detailed look at how Beirut voted, beyond the surprisingly great outing of the civil movement Beirut Madinati’s list, which even though it didn’t get actual seats, still has plenty to celebrate.

It is important to note that in the most optimistic of cases, the chances for any list other than the list of the political parties to win was next to zero. No this isn’t retrospective analysis. 

Despite the context of the trash crisis, rising corruption, overall voter discontentment, parliament extending its mandate twice, etc… the math of the Beirut electoral equation was never in favor of any non-political movement: the division of districts, the system, demographics, the sectarian propaganda – The Bierteh list had tried to attract voters – especially Christian ones – by proposing a 50-50 Christian/Muslim list, although Beirut Madinati had also kept the same quota.

So no, the cards were not the best that could be given for Beirut Madinati, or any other movement for that matter, simply because those cards were being played on a table that served only one side: the political establishment.

As a result of all of the above, the loudest of voters on Sunday was the low turnout.

20% Voted:

This is not a historically low number. In 2010, 18% of Beirutis voted. Beirutis simply do not vote in Municipal elections, and only do so at slightly higher numbers in parliamentary ones: 33% in 2009.

This is due to many factors. Voter learned helplessness is an important one, but so is the feel that there really isn’t a contest to begin with further increasing the sense of voter apathy. 

33% voted in 1998, the first election since the Civil War, and the lower turnout since should be enough to tell you how much people lost faith.

Many partisan voters were also not willing to vote for the “zayy ma hiye” list but did not want to break lines.

Achrafieh El Bidayi:

Beirut Madinati won the Beirut 1 district with around 60% of the vote, a blow to the rallying calls of Christian parties in the area for their supporters to vote for the Bierti’s list. The 60% figure is not only exclusive to the mostly-Christian Beirut 1, but is also applicable to the Christian vote in the rest of Beirut.

This doesn’t mean the weight of the LF and FPM combined is 40%. Many LF and FPM leaning voters voted for Beirut Madinati more against Hariri, but it sets the precedence that politically affiliated people can go beyond their affiliations and vote in a way that breaks what they were instructed to do.

Boycotts from the bases of the FPM, LF, and Kataeb were also there on election day, as a sign of disagreement with the recent choices of their parties: The FPM electorate isn’t a fan of Hariri; the LF base isn’t a fan of an alliance with the FPM, and the Kataeb aren’t fans of anything.

This lack of enthusiasm was probably one of the causes of the lower turnout in Christian polling stations.

The context of such a vote, however, is probably not sectarian as is circulating. Achrafieh is one of Beirut’s higher socioeconomic areas, with higher income and education rates. You’ll probably see a similar phenomenon in the higher socio-economic districts of Beirut III. Those residents are more likely to vote for issues such as reform, transportation and trash sorting. Those are also the voters that are the less afraid of change.

Many if not all of Lebanon’s parties count on clientelism to widen their electoral base. In higher socio-economic echelons, the reliance of the electorate on the mainstream parties is less.  Those voters don’t need their political parties in the neo-socialist way that most parties in Lebanon function. In Achrafieh, for example, the LF and FPM do not provide medical services, free education, job opportunities for Achrafieh voters as much as other parties in other districts, so throughout the years, the electorate managed to develop an independence from traditional Christian parties.

The Example Of Tariq El Jdide: Anyone Can Be Reached

Sectarian talk is terrible, but is a necessary evil until the political system is not one where people go and vote in segregation based on how they pray. If you crunch Beirut’s numbers, you will end up with a rough figure of around 30% of the Sunni vote not going to Hariri.

This is probably as important, if not more, than BM winning 60% of the vote in Beirut 1.

I don’t believe we can call this a dissent from the Future Movement yet, but it is a continuation of the gradual and progressive Sunni dislike of the way Saad Hariri is running things, even with his rise of popularity after his return.

The reason the Future Movement won is not because voters are “sheep.” It’s because the Future Movement, through various governmental policies, has forced the people of many Sunni areas to always remain in need for their intervention to get the basic necessities that should be a right for every Lebanese citizen, which many in other areas have access to without needing their political parties: do not cut the hand that feeds you.

The political framework of the elections is important. They come at a time when Sunnis in Lebanon feel increasingly threatened by being categorized as potential-Islamists, to the background of a party in power fighting for a regime they do not approve of in Syria.

The need to not break rank was never greater. They may not approve of Hariri, but this was not the time to show it, and yet 30% did. The situation in the country is not one where sects have the prerogative to show cracks in their facade, or have we forgotten how Christians have also forced a seemingly unbreakable veneer over the past few months as well?

All of this makes the 30% figure of Sunnis who did not vote for Hariri all the more impressive and courageous. It’s the kind of percentage that breaks taboos.

Moving Forward:

The election’s overall results are telling. In Beirut I, the LF representative Elie Yahchouchi and the FPM’s Traboulsi lead their allies in the FM by around 800 votes (of around 6500 the list got). In Beirut II, with its important Shia and Armenian electorate, almost all of the winning candidates from LB are in the 9000 votes region. One candidate however, Amal’s representative, stands out as having 10000 votes. In the third district, Yahchouchi and Traboulsi are 5000 votes behind the FM’s candidates.

The difference between the first and the last of list is around 8000 votes for LB, and 3000 votes for BM. In other words, most of those who voted BM did not make major changes to their lists (“tochtib”) and were convinced with almost all of BM’s candidates, while the base of every single party in power was modifying the names.

That is the biggest proof that the ruling coalition is unstable, and that in 2017, even a minor split between the parties in power can lower that 60% and give way to an independent breakthrough. Check the results here.

But now is time to look ahead.

Our voting process needs to be modernized. 36 hours to go through Beirut’s voting results is a disgrace. There are no excuses.

The rhetoric we need to adopt should never call those who do not vote the way we want sheep or other varieties of animals. It is demeaning, and not any different than the system we want to change. Such horrific name-calling only alienates voters from your platform. The core of democracy is one where many will not vote the way you find is best.

Our rhetoric should also be more inclusive, and less elitist. Our bubble in which we believe our paradigm of Lebanese politics is scripture is exclusive to the people that are reached by our message, but the bulk of voters exist outside of that bubble. We need to be aware that what we know and believe is true doesn’t translate to others and work on reforming our message to make it holistic.

This means that calls to divide Beirut into smaller districts just because Achrafieh voted one way and Tariq el Jdide voted another are horrifyingly xenophobic. Beirut is a city that is 18 km2 with 500,000 voters only. It is too small to be divided. We need policies to bring people together, not segregate them into separate cantons.

Accomplishing so starts by championing policies to better the conditions of all Beirutis, especially those that exist in impoverished areas. Beirut Madinati did not, for instance, campaign as much as it should have in Tariq el Jdide.

Political parties in the country keep people at bay by keeping them afraid and hungry. Keep them as such, and they remain at their mercy. The first step in breaking this political hegemony is to make them need their political parties less: advocate for better schools, better and more comprehensive healthcare, fight economic inflation, raise the minimum wage, adopt a better taxing scheme, etc…

Such measures, however, cannot be done by simply complaining on Facebook. Modernizing our elections isn’t only about getting electronic voting machines, but also about having an electoral law that is fitting of the year 2016. The only law that can work to represent all different sections of Lebanon’s society is a law based on proportional representation. If such a law were adopted, for example, Beirut Madinati would have obtained 9 seats out of the available 24 on Sunday.

Proportional representation, as proposed during a cabinet meeting in 2010 tackling the municipal electoral law, is one of many reforms, such as electing the mayor directly from the people, and a 30% women quota, that are napping in parliament. The establishment is making it harder, but that shouldn’t mean that pressure should stop.

We also need to realize that, despite disagreeing with them, political parties are not going away. If we are to leave a mark, we have to find a framework in which we organize into a party that can compete better in elections, in politics and do so in unity: one of our biggest failings in this election was having like-minded people run on two different lists.

Today, we should be cautiously optimistic at what the future holds. Change in Lebanon is not a sudden process. It’s a tedious affair that needs planning over many years. Start planning for 2017’s parliamentary elections today and 2022’s municipal elections yesterday. Do not despair, and most importantly, always challenge the status quo regardless of how comfortable you are in it.

 

40% Of Beirutis Voted For Beirut Madinati: Yes, Change Is Possible!

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After more than 36 hours, Beirut’s results have been revealed and Beirut Madinati, the little list that could, ended up getting 40% of the Beiruti vote, in an election where the super low voter turnout was probably the loudest voter.

The race turned out to be much closer than the Future Movement’s electoral machine said it was. On the same day of the elections, they called victory theirs with a difference of 25,000 to 30,000 votes. The actual result turned out to be half that.

In fact, the difference between the lowest vote getter on Hariri’s list and the highest on Beirut Madinati is only 7000 votes.

The results per Beiruti region are as follows:

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This translates to the following:

Beirut 1: BM 60%, LB 40%;

Beirut 2: LB 65%, BM 35%,

Beirut 3: LB 64%, BM 36%.


This shows that change is possible. If 6 months’ work ended up with such a massive result, it shows that people are willing to go beyond their political lines to choose that they find would be better for their future.

As I said yesterday, Beirut Madinati are victorious even if they didn’t actually win. I will write a more detailed post about the numbers later.