From America, I’ll Be Voting For Kollouna Watani… And So Should You

In around a month, I’d have been what Gebran Bassil would like to call a “mountasher” for exactly one year. In a few days, this very same mountasher will be driving around 70 miles north of Philadelphia, to a smaller city called Easton where a big Lebanese American population resides. In one of Easton’s hotels, I will be casting my first ever ballot for Lebanese parliament.

On that ballot, for the North 3 district encompassing Batroun (my home district), Bsharre, Koura and Zgharta, I will be giving my vote to the brave list of independents who are trying to fight the status quo of political parties. On Sunday, April 29th, my ballot will be in favor for Kollouna Watani. And so should yours, be it that day or on May 6th back home.

I left Lebanon nearly 11 months ago. Leading up to my decision to leave were years during which I used this blog to vent about the many shortcomings that life in Lebanon entailed.

I’ve written about the garbage crisis, the government suppressing protests. I’ve written about their attempts at censorship, the horrible roads, horrifying internet, dying infrastructure, rising racism, disgusting homophobia, and xenophobia. I’ve written about young men being gunned or knifed down in the streets with next to no repercussions. I’ve written about our people dying left and right because they lack the most basic of necessities that any person in 2018 should have.

The common denominator to most of my blog posts that complained about the situation was always the same: Lebanon’s ruling class, in its varying forms, that turned the country into the rotting state it is today. Lebanon’s politicians, to varying degrees, have failed the country.

The Lebanon that I left is a country that doesn’t have constant electricity, and water supply despite having the resource aplenty. It’s a country where internet is mind-numbingly slow, where the security situation is as precarious as it can be. It’s a country whose passport is essentially worthless, where the system is so dysfunctional this is our first election in 9 years and where we stayed without a president for well over two years. It’s a country where homophobia, xenophobia and racism are a political tool, a way of life and rampant infestations.

The Lebanon I left is a country whose capital drowned in garbage for months, and whose garbage crisis has yet to be resolved. The Lebanon I left is a place whose second city Tripoli was ravaged for years with conflict because the city’s politicians were at odds, effectively killing the city’s reputation and straining its fragility. The Lebanon I left is a place where we are forcibly impoverished, starved, left without jobs and basic human rights… so that one day they can dangle those very things they’ve deprived us of, right in front of our eyes, and entice us to give them our trust again.

But no more.

I left for a reason. That reason is because the country I called home for most of my adult life so far was not offering me the prospect of the future that I knew I deserved. I was lucky and priviliged enough to have had the chance to leave, many others do not.

The famous Lebanese saying goes: إلي بجرب المجرب بكون عقله مخرب – if you try something you’ve tried before and failed, your mind is rotten. Many people my age back home are unemployed, struggling with the country they’ve grown up in, the same country that has been ruled by more or less the same political class since before the civil war. We’ve tried them enough.

Our parents have struggled enough to give us the best life that they can in a country that has made sure that process was as hard as possible for them. They’ve tried doing that enough.

Our entire system has made sure to bring us down whenever we tried. It has made sure to enable our politicians, while disabling the people at every venture, and every corner. In Lebanon, the system is not for the people, and by the people; it’s for our politicians and their henchmen – it’s their world and we’re just living in it, but no more.

Some of you may have had a parliament member provide you with basic human necessities: a job, for instance. That’s not their job. Their job is to provide you with a country where you wouldn’t need them for a job.

Some of you may be offered money to vote for this person or that come election day. I cannot judge. But there’s a reason why this tactic works – it’s because they’ve made sure you need them to the point where a few hundred dollars every few years is a treasure in your eyes.

Some of you may have family or relatives who are involved with this party of another. Some of you may even have parents who’ve asked you to vote for this person or another. In that polling booth, you should know that your choice is yours alone and it should be without any other person’s opinion of what they think you should or should not do.

I can go on and on about the situation back home, and what it lacks. But today, I stand before a very easy choice. On one hand, I am being spammed by a certain minister running in a region, on a phone number he got because of the expat data that was leaked. On the other hand, my region has a candidate named Layal Bou Moussa who is personally handing out her flyers to passing cars, holding town halls to discuss her electoral program.

On one hand, I have the choice to try out the same status quo that’s been in my area for years. On the other hand, I have the chance to vote for change. Is the prospect scary? Perhaps. Will the change I want to vote for win? Doubtful. But every vote counts. Saying that giving those independent candidates our votes is a waste because they’re not going to win is amplified when it’s not only you who’s saying that, but thousands of others… and then you end up voting for the reason you think no change is possible anyway.

Dear Expats – there’s a reason you left. Remember it on April 27th and 29th.

Dear Lebanese friends, family, and readers back home – there’s a reason you’ve been reading this blog for years, there’s a reason you’ve been complaining about el wade3 l 3am for the past 7 years. There’s a reason why the country is what it is today. Remember that on May 6th.

Remember that those candidates who are spreading fake news, fear, using money to buy votes, using scare tactics to get votes before the elections will probably be worse after elections are over. Remember that those people pretending to care about your votes before the elections will not give a rat’s ass about them after. Remember that this decision will be yours to bear for the next four years.

As for me, on April 29th, in that small city in Pennsylvania, USA, I know what I’ll be voting for.

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When Lebanon Remembers #آخر_مرة_صارت_الانتخابات

In case you’re living under a rock, Lebanon’s parliament will renew its mandate for the third consecutive time tomorrow, on the anniversary of the Lebanese Civil War.

Of course, this doesn’t come as a shock. There’s been signs of it for months now, especially as elections are to be held in 40 days and our politicians have defined the word failure in their attempt to agree on an electoral law.

Mixed law? Proportional law? Majority law? The law of relativity? Orthodox law? Theory of quantum elections law? Never heard of any of that stuff.

What’s worse is that the collective Lebanese population probably couldn’t care less. You tell them that parliament is going to extend its mandate for an extra year, and that their right to vote which has been taken away since 2013 will be taken for a third time, and the reaction is a shrug, à la: did you expect otherwise?

It seems that our politicians have decimated our democracy so much that we can’t even expect its basic foundation, elections, to ever take place, or for our own people to be as outraged by this as they were by a silly music video where a woman paraded in tight clothes.

Of course there’s going to be protests, and of course a lot of people – even top political parties – will oppose the mandate extension. There’s even a protest scheduled for Thursday, to coincide with the promised parliament session to renew their mandate. That protest is also supported by the supporters of some political parties, especially those that actually want elections to take place.

However, as we’ve learned from all of our attempts to stop the first and second extension, such measures will always fall short, especially when you’re faced with a parliament that is so inept that it can’t even find a way for its mandate to end. It can’t get sadder than that.

So in response to parliament about to extend its mandate for a third time, Lebanese did as the Lebanese do best, which is to turn the depressingly bad situation into a joke. Because let’s face it, with the apathy regarding the mandate extension, it’s probably the only thing that can be done.

The joke, this time, was the hashtag: #آخر_مرة_صارت_الانتخابات, which translates to: the last time elections happened, affixed to a series of events that were “in” back in 2009.

The following Facebook posts and tweets are telling in how this country’s every ounce of “democracy” has been absolutely destroyed. Yes, they’re hilarious at times, but the subtext is horribly sad.

I’m a 27 year old Lebanese person who’s going to move out of the country soon without having cast a single ballot for parliament. That right has been taken away from me twice so far, with the third time coming up soon.

Food for thought: every single Lebanese between the age of 21 and 28 has never ever voted for parliamentary elections. Our current parliament will be nearly 10 years old by the time they’re supposed to hold elections again if the new extension goes through. We’ve never gone this long without elections since the Civil War.

Remember that when you post about #آخر_مرة_صارت_الانتخابات.

Lebanese Civil Society Triumphs: Naqabati Beats All Political Parties Combined At Syndicate of Engineers Elections

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Tonight, we celebrate. It may not be the national victory we hope to see come parliamentary elections (if they allow us to vote) but every little step towards dismantling the hegemony of political parties over everything surrounding our daily life counts.

That step, today, is the resounding triumph of Lebanon’s civil society movement in the Beirut Syndicate of Engineers Elections, in a list they called Naqabati, represented by Engineer Jad Tabet, over a list headed by Paul Najm, who’s backed by all political parties in power.

After a grueling electoral day, and a rather quick vote count aided by the use of electronic vote tabulations, Jad Tabet narrowly beat Paul Najm by about 21 votes:

 

This is a resounding victory. To have civil movement be this victorious over all political parties combined shows that if we’re united, we can achieve the results we hope to aspire at levels we had previously not dreamed of.

Naqabati’s campaign has been exemplary in how syndicates should be running in the country. They’ve been inviting press and engineers to attend their events in which they announced very clear platforms, geared towards giving a chance towards young engineers at making a dent in a field where hierarchy, as is the case in the remainder of Lebanese jobs, is key.

Jad Tabet wanted to help the youth. He wanted to restore his profession’s dignity and rights away from the uselessness of political parties. Today, he succeeded.

This is not a victory only for engineers. This is a victory for all of us to look up to. Yes, we can. Jad Tabet and Beirut’s engineers, thank you for showing us that.

Here’s hoping we can take this victory and turn it into parliament seats in the vote that matters most. We are the change that this country deserves, and we are about to bring it.

Mabrouk Jad Tabet. Mabrouk Naqabati.

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.

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.