In Lebanon, legislative elections largely blocked by political clientelism

Bordering Syria and surrounded by agricultural land, the village of Al-Qaa is about to come alive on the occasion of the legislative elections, Sunday, May 15. The approximately 5,000 residents will be joined by families who have gone to live in Beirut, which this town in the Bekaa usually sees again in the summer or during the holidays. Located in the constituency of Baalbek-Hermel, with a Shiite majority, the locality is Christian. The battle is being played out there between the two main parties of the community: the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement.

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The local leaders of these rival groups are not worried about the presence of protest candidates in the region. Everyone has been doing their accounts for several months, provided with the lists of voters drawn up by the Ministry of the Interior. In the village, political opinions are no secret. “The party affixes color codes next to the names: supporters, entourage, neutral people. Everyone does that! smiles Bachir Matar, president of the municipality of Al-Qaa, affiliated with the Lebanese Forces (FL), a formation hostile to Hezbollah. He had obtained the parliamentary majority with his allies during the legislative elections of 2018.

Families known to be linked to the rival camp are not approached by a party – a wasted effort. But to mobilize those deemed likely to be conquered, techniques are sharpened, more effective than the electoral meetings that have been held. Thus, the presence of activists is more marked during important social occasions in the village, such as funerals. The parties do not forget those who reside in Beirut: they meet or call nearly 2,000 registered in the Al-Qaa register. Their mission: to ensure voter loyalty.

Strong personal interactions

Behind the scenes of meetings, slogans or television appearances of candidates in the campaign, the traditional parties in the running have activated their electoral machine for several months, with their vote beaters. These are often members or supporters. Varied tasks are entrusted to them: to make family visits, to collect a commitment to vote, to check that the sympathizers have an up-to-date voter card. Or offer to pay transportation costs for the ballot. “It’s legal!” », exclaims Mr. Matar. This long-existing “service” is supposed to reduce abstention this year, while the price of gasoline has exploded.

The network is made possible by the way we vote in Lebanon: a voter is registered in the locality of the paternal line, and not where he lives

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