Independent lawyers in Lebanon achieved an exceptional victory in Sunday’s elections for the Beirut Bar Association after Melhem Khalaf defeated a candidate supported by the country’s political parties.
Khalaf won with 2,341 votes against Nader Gaspard.
Immediately after announcing the results, aired live on local television, lawyers gathering at the Justice Palace in Beirut chanted: “Revolution, revolution,” reminiscent of anti-government protesters who have gathered in public squares across Lebanon since Oct. 17. Lawyers then recited together the national anthem.
“We hope that the joyful scene we have witnessed today would extend to the whole country for the establishment of democracy and the renewal of the spirit of institutions, which should protect the citizens,” Khalaf said.
He stressed that the Bar Association would protect “public freedoms and human rights.”
Commenting on Khalaf’s election, former Minister Boutros Harb said that the result of the Association’s election was the biggest blow to the ruling authority since the eruption of protests “because it proved that the overwhelming majority of our people reject the rule of mafias.”
“It’s the first democratic victory among many more victories to come,” he remarked.
The head of the Kataeb Party, MP Sami Gemayel, stressed that the lawyers said their word.
“The train of change is on the right track. The journey, which began from the Bar Association today in the face of partisanship, will not stop. Congratulations to our colleague Melhem Khalaf. We hope our homeland will be restored,” Gemayel said.
MP Shamil Roukoz, President Michel Aoun’s son-in-law who recently announced his withdrawal from the ruling ‘Strong Lebanon’ parliamentary bloc, congratulated the new head of the Beirut Bar Association on his election.
“We hope that the Association would at this stage play a role to defend rights and achieve justice,” he said, calling on “everyone to review the results, draw lessons, and adhere to (Lebanon’s) principles, instead of betting on interest-based alliances.”