Lebanon is about to Vote. Local Elections with Global Effects

By Souad Sbai

In Lebanon, elections to renew the parliament are about to be held. This piece of news seems to be having a mere local relevance, and the scenario in turn seems to be very difficult to understand (77 lists are involved). However, the outcome of the elections will be of crucial importance to define the balance of the Middle East, as Lebanon is divided between Christians and Muslims, both Shiites and Sunni, and is hanging between the Saudi and the Iranian blocks.

The forthcoming elections in Lebanon are really important, as they will take place nine years after the last ones, and five years after the natural expire of the Parliament’s term.

The outcome of these elections will tell about the actual strength of the various political (and religious) factions involved, and will also play a decisive role in defining the balance of power in the Middle East, as well as at global level, given the importance of the region in the international chessboard.

Lebanon’s complexity is well-represented by the Parliament, where the 128 seats reflect the feature of the country today: a country divided between Christians and Muslims, with plenty of confessional, inter-confessional, political, and social groups.

It is no coincidence that the Pact signed in 1943 created a well-defined structure: the President is always a Maronite Christian, and the Prime Minister is always a Sunni Muslim.

But Lebanon is also the land of the Christian Phalange Party, of the Shiite Hezbollah and Amal, of the Druses, Melkites, Alawites, Armenian-Orthodox and so on.

In short, Lebanon is a kaleidoscope of acronyms, parallel worlds, parties, currents, and movements enlivening Beirut and its politics.

The complex proportional system of voting ensures each community a number of pre-established seats. However, it does not allow us to foresee what the outcome of elections will be. A number can give us the idea of the complexity of the situation: the competing lists are 77.

The only certain thing is that the most sensitive issue being discussed is the Syrian crisis, despite the difficult economic conditions of the country. Each alliance has a different idea about Damascus.

The composition of the Parliament that will emerge from the polls will show the orientation of Lebanon, and it will also be easier to figure out the destiny of Damascus and the broader region.

Lebanon is one of the most delicate pieces of the global conflict between Sunnis and Shiites, in particular between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the major rival countries leading the two contending blocks.

Therefore, Lebanon is very much interwoven with the Syrian crisis, and in case of unmanageable political and social tensions may walk down the same path toward internal strife.

Moreover, we cannot forget that Lebanon remains a country in conflict, even if the Syrian civil war has drawn all the media attention for reasons that have often exceeded the mere humanitarian interest.

The stakes are therefore very high, despite that the mainstream media (as it often happens) has not given much importance to it, guiltily. This is because the Lebanese situation is considered too difficult for the general public to understand and, above all, it is not manipulable.

The ballot will speak and we will then understand what direction the country of Cedars will take.