It has taken few days for the dust to settle on Lebanon’s general elections. With the official final results announced by the ministry of interior, it is time to reflect on the outcome of one of the country’s most divisive polls in years. Sunday’s polls were the first since August 2020 catastrophic blast at Beirut, which killed more than 200 and injured thousands, and sparked nationwide protests that called for real change in a nation dominated for the past 30 years by a widely known corrupt ruling class.
Most of its members were also leaders of the militias that took part in Lebanon’s civil war 1975-1990. The elections were also held amid an economic collapse, described recently by the World Bank as one of the worst in the world since 1850. The national currency has lost 90 per cent of its value and more than 80 per cent of the population is now officially below the povertly line.
The elections thus were a historic opportunity for the Lebanese people to change the status quo. However, the actual results show a different picture. There are some promising indications though.
While the main parties, accused of corruption and leading the country to ruin over the past 30 years, succeeded in dominating the polls again, independent and democracy activists, mainly among the youth who led the 2019 protests, managed to breach the electoral lists in some of the traditional strongholds of the ruling elites — to win 15 seats.
Although the number seems small in the 128-seat Parliament, it nevertheless shows that Lebanon is ready for change. It also means that the previous majority, led by Hezbollah and its allies, mainly President Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, no longer holds that position. Their tight grip on power in Lebanon has been successfully challenged by the ‘change forces’ and other opposition parties.
Therefore, and despite the fact that Hezbollah and its allies hold a significant number of seats in the new house (nearly half), it can no longer claim a monopoly. Others, who believe in a sovereign and corruption-free Lebanon, have earned their right to share the decision making.
That is the bright side of the outcome. But the elections has also shown that Lebanon remains as divided as ever on sectarian lines. The return of most of the old guard, solely on the basis of their religious identity, means that Lebanon remains a polarised society. Due to that, it is difficult to see how such a divided parliament will agree on the two upcoming national tasks: nominating the new Prime Minster, which should be an immediate step, and electing a new president in 4 months time.
Sunday’s elections may have brought in some fresh faces to the fore that can challenge the status quo but Lebanon remains in need of real change to come back from the abyss.