A Sliver of Hope for Lebanon? — Global Issues

The economic and political crisis in Lebanon has left most households with food shortages. Now, the outbreak of war in Ukraine threatens to spike food prices and push basic foods out of reach. Lebanon imports more than 50% of its wheat from Ukraine. Source: United Nations World Food Program (WFP)
  • Idea by Rasha Al Saba (London)
  • Joint press service
  • The writer is Head of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Department at Minority Rights International, UK.

Lebanon’s decentralized system – the sharing of power among the three major religious blocs – is actually a compromise made with the support of the international community to establish peace in the country after a civil war. long and bitter battle.

Despite widespread criticism, the influence of this sect created by the Taif Agreement of 1989, remained unwavering, creating an elite ruling class that, in the decades that followed, repeatedly did not. solve the major problems facing the country.

In what is believed to be one of the worst economic recessions the world has seen in 150 years, an estimated 80% of the population is currently living in poverty. Rising prices led to mass uprisings in 2019 and shortages only worsened as soaring fuel prices made food scarce and medicine further out of reach.

The devastation of the explosion at the port of Beirut in 2020, the death toll and economic paralysis caused by the pandemic are only complicating matters. While the headlines all focused on the waning influence of Hezbollah – and by proxy, of Iran, there were other aspects of the election that deserved highlight.

Of course, the loss of alliance between Hezbollah and the Aounist party is significant, mainly because it is difficult to predict how the famous base behind the armed Hezbollah will react. Peace in Lebanon has been difficult to achieve, but peace is not accompanied by stable development and prosperity.

As for the dynamics of the revolution in Tunisia, it is the lack of opportunity and the fixed inequality that is to blame for the frustration of ordinary Lebanese. In this sense, an increase in the number of seats claimed by independent and opposition candidates could lead to competing blocs, none of which garner an absolute majority.

Some of these candidates have their roots in anti-elite protests in 2019. The victory of lawyer Firas Hamdan, an independent candidate won in the south over Marwan Kheedlydine, a former minister and Chairman of AM Bank, is an example of this trend. .

Hamdan was injured in the 2019 protests and his victory could signal a weakening of the traditionalists’ hold, who have benefited from the political system itself, in when it is not possible to create a governance agenda that benefits the whole country.

Another change is a modest increase in the number of women in the new parliament, who now make up 8 out of 128 MPs, compared with 6 women in the old parliament. However, half of those who succeed are independent candidates, able to empower the anti-elite bloc in parliament.

The Lebanese government’s anti-refugee sentiment was also evident in the election when the Interior Ministry imposed a ban on the movement of Palestinian and Syrian refugees.

Syrians have been involved in electoral campaigns and agendas throughout the election. Syrian refugees are genuinely concerned that advances for the main parties in this election could lead to the passage of laws that could pave the way for the repatriation of Syrian refugees to Syria.

If passed and enforced, such laws would increase the risk of torture, detention and murder at the behest of the Syrian regime from which it had previously escaped.

These elections took place in a context of poverty and despair that was once unimaginable. In 2019, the wave of protests against those conditions suggested that mass change was possible, but this was mitigated by the arrival of the pandemic, which subsequently took a considerable toll. for an already vulnerable population.

Almost three years later, this has translated into an election result that is inconsistent with Lebanon.

In a country with many historically diverse and ethnic minorities, it is imperative to form a government that can transcend identity and adopt a nationwide approach to governance. The emergence of new independent women candidates, campaigning and winning on a new platform offers a glimmer of hope.

But if the ‘old politics’ between Christianity and Islam, and a separate Iran-Saudi proxy competition, continue to influence, the road ahead will be indeed difficult.

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© Inter Press Service (2022) – All rights reservedOrigin: Inter Press Service

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