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The Confusing Results of Lebanon’s Elections

The Confusing Results of Lebanon’s Elections

Friday, 27 May, 2022 - 11:45

Looking at the figures, it is difficult to see how any Lebanese faction could form a parliamentary majority; even if it succeeded, its majority would be temporary. They have all lost seats and seen their grip over parliament loosen. Meanwhile, those trying to go at it alone and disregard the results, barricading themselves behind their source of power, have forgotten that the foundations of that power have become shaky, leaving its hegemony greatly undermined.

This state of affairs was brought about on May 15. The confounding results of the elections held that day have left domestic forces and international players dumbfounded. They were bewildered because they could not explain the political ramifications of these results in the near or medium term- how these results will shape every major decision parliament takes and whether it will be paralyzed and delegitimize the country’s authorities and political system.

Indeed, the results of the latest election have forced Lebanese political and cultural elites to read the situation with caution and avert the threats presented by the dominant powers’ refusal to acknowledge the political implications of the results. This gridlock brings the schism that defined Lebanese political life on the eve of the civil war, between those who believed that they obtained their rights through arms and those who believed they could maintain their privileges through arms.

After the results of the 2022 elections, Lebanon has become split in a similar fashion today, albeit with some crucial differences. One side denies the figures; calculating instead based on balances of power, it sees its arsenal as a privilege it is entitled to. On the other side, we have a new political class that considers reforming the system, both politically and economically, to be its prerogative.

The former, after the elections, linked its political standing, as well as that of its allies, to its arsenal. As for the latter, it is a group of factions who have come together without forming an alliance, and this group refuses to recognize the privilege of the former and is keen on confronting it. Of course, it does not intend to face the former’s arms with arms, as Lebanese writer Hazem Saghieh pointed out in his latest article for Asharq al-Awsat. “That, however, obviously does not imply support for suicidal idiotic decisions like facing weapons with weapons.” “Nonetheless,” he adds, “pacifist naivety should not be the only alternative to suicidal idiocy.”

Hezbollah rejects linking the loss of its majority to the roles it plays as an armed force, which brings the collapse of the Soviet Union to mind. The Soviet Union’s immense arsenal could not provide its citizens with bread in 1989 or prevent its collapse in 1991. The difference in scale, here, is immense. Nonetheless, it is a simple example of the sort of threats Lebanon will face in the near term, especially as the party arrogantly tries to disregard the results and conceals its uneasiness with the results and confusion about how to address them by emphasizing the need to discuss day to day needs.

While such calls continue to come with warnings that it is prepared to disrupt political life and clash with rivals if need be, the party has resorted to violence and the use of military force at several junctures- especially given the crisis and the state of the economy- will likely carefully assess the state of play before endeavoring to start this kind of misadventure.

In practice, the results have created confusion on all levels and reinforced fears of a clash between the traditional parties and the reformists, who reject the logic of wheeling and dealing but have a limited capacity to obstruct it. That means Lebanon is likely to see a legislative vacuum (because it is difficult to predict whether a parliamentary session will be held and Nabih Berri will be elected parliamentary speaker), a vacuum in the executive (since rival blocs agreeing to a consensus prime minister seem unlikely) and this will inevitably impact parliament’s election of a new President in October.

And so, the confusing election results have created political confusion. While it opens the door to establishing a movement for change, it has also created an impasse that needs untraditional solutions of the sort that the Lebanese have become accustomed to seeing whenever faced with a similar crisis. May God protect what remains of Lebanon.

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