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Lebanon General Elections

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Published on May 3, 2018

After nearly a decade of turbulent politics, Lebanese voters are preparing to cast their ballots in general elections scheduled for May the sixth. Over three-point-six million registered voters will be eligible to choose among 583 candidates vying for the parliament's 128 seats. Under Lebanon’s sect-based political system, the parliament's seats are equally divided among Muslims and Christians. Moreover, the president must be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the parliamentary speaker a Shia Muslim. Since 2009, the Lebanese have witnessed their government collapse twice in 2011 and 2013 and the presidency sit vacant for more than two years.

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The 2005 assassination of Lebanon’s late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri which some blamed on the Syrian government further complicated the country’s political balance. Lebanon’s political arena has since been divided into two main camps; The pro-Syrian, March 8 bloc led by the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah and the anti-Syrian March 14 bloc backed by the West and Saudi Arabia. However, the upcoming elections will be held under a new electoral law passed in June 2017 which could end the polarization of the country’s politics. Under the new measure seventy-seven lists were formed by multiple parties in a tangled web of contradictory alliances that may disrupt the domination of the March 8 and 14 blocs.

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The May six vote in Lebanon comes amid Hezbollah’s increasing popularity which has seen many Sunni groups back the movement. Hezbollah fighters played a key role in securing the country’s borders with Syria once seized by Israeli and Saudi backed militants. On the other hand, Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri’s party will have a tough job building up support after last November’s drama in Riyadh where he announced his resignation. On his return to Lebanon in December, Hariri withdrew his resignation, denying Saudi Arabia’s role in his decisions. But the issue soured relations between Saudi Arabia and Sa’ad Hariri whose party is under dire financial straits over the collapse of Saudi Oger construction firm owned by the Hariri family. Riyadh has also revived a one-billion-dollar credit line to Beirut but there has been no sign of financial support for Hariri. Given the circumstances, Hariri’s Future Movement party is expected to lose seats to rivals including Hezbollah.

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