Lebanese political factions prepare for May elections

BEIRUT: More than 500 candidates, including 69 women, have applied to take part in Lebanon’s May 15 legislative elections, with the country’s interior ministry expecting the number to rise significantly before the midnight Tuesday deadline.

By Friday evening, a total of 517 candidates had applied.

The 2018 elections were contested by 976 candidates, including 113 women, but the number dropped after registration closed. As a result, 597 candidates, including 86 women, remained on 77 lists in Lebanese constituencies.

The prospects for this year’s election will become clearer after the voter lists are completed on April 4. Voters head to the polls on May 15, with candidates vying for the country’s 128 parliamentary seats in 15 electoral districts.

A number of major parties will officially announce their candidates on Monday.

President Nabih Berri will unveil his nominees, including current MPs and defendants in the Beirut port explosion hearings, at a press conference.

The Free Patriotic Movement announced its candidates on Sunday at its seventh annual conference. In an address, party leader Gebran Bassil attacked his political opponents, including the March 14 Alliance and the civil movement, which he called a “false revolution”, adding that “they will fall”.

Bassil defended Hezbollah and said his partnership with the FPM in the electoral lists, which will be formed later, “is not a program partnership, but a process of integrating the votes”.

Hezbollah seeks to ensure that the FPM gains parliamentary seats with as few losses as possible. Hezbollah officials said: “Anyone who fails the Amal movement and Hezbollah is a partner in the biggest regional and international attack that wants to destroy Hezbollah, which protects Lebanon.

MP Wael Abou Faour of the Progressive Socialist Party said that “the plan of the March 8 Alliance (including Hezbollah and its allies) in the elections amounts to obtaining two-thirds of the MPs and thus imposing their spoiled candidate for the presidency of the Republic, (referring to MP Gebran Bassil), controlling the constitutional amendments, changing the system and turning the issue of de facto weapons into a constitutional reality, which will not be the will of the Lebanese.

The Lebanese Forces party will launch its campaign on Monday to coincide with the anniversary of the Cedar Revolution on March 14.

Candidates representing Lebanon’s Sunni sect are expected to include a number of independent figures, even those loyal to late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, after the Future Movement asked its members to quit the party if they decided to run for office legislative.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati is likely to withdraw from the elections. Three FM MPs – Rola Tabsh, Mohammed Hajjar and Asim Araji – said they would do the same, confirming their loyalty to Saad Hariri.

Six groups of civil activists on Saturday launched a joint project aimed at uniting progressive opposition forces into a single electoral front. The gathering set the stage for the drafting of a joint working document by which the candidates will be announced early next week.

However, parliamentary elections continue to be threatened by Lebanon’s worsening economic crisis and the prospect of the country sliding further into collapse in the two months before the May 15 poll.

President Michel Aoun reportedly said that “the money for the elections is not yet available”.

Opinion polls conducted by several private institutions on an almost weekly basis showed a drop in voter enthusiasm for the candidates, as well as an increase in political ambivalence and resentment towards the authorities in power. .

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