Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

The Lebanese Parliamentary Elections of 2005

Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

The Lebanese Parliamentary Elections of 2005

Article excerpt

This study is concerned primarily with a systematic analysis of Lebanon's most recent election, its characteristics and results. The methodology or research procedure that is utilized is both descriptive and analytical. Following a brief discussion of Lebanon's major political developments in relation to the preparations for elections, Part One concentrates on the elections in each of the country's five provinces, the degree of competitiveness and the extent of voter participation within each. Part Two provides a detailed description of the process of elite recruitment and replacement. The final part examines the impact of these elections in a time of political transition, and more specifically provides a view of the political changes underway in Lebanon.

Key Words: 2005 Lebanese elections; Lebanon; Parliamentary elite; Lebanese political parties; Druze; Shi'i; Sunni; Maronite Christians.

Lebanon's 2005 parliamentary elections - held on four consecutive Sundays from May 29 to June 19 - constitute a glaring departure from the country's past three polls - in 1992, 1996 and 2000. In nearly all electoral districts seemingly powerful Syrian-affiliated candidates retreated as the forces of the anti-Syrian opposition made an impressive showing. However, a distinguishing feature of the 2005 polls was that in some constituencies opposition factions clashed against each other. In some other districts, Syria's staunches! allies won a crushing victory, namely in Shi'i-dominated areas of the Baalbeck and Southern Lebanon. However, while several traditional politicians retained their positions, intense electoral contests in Mount Lebanon, Zahle and the North wrote a considerable change in the political map.

As far as actual polling is concerned, many aspects set the 2005 election apart from previously held elections in post-war Lebanon. For the first time, effective measures were taken to ensure that the elections were free and fair. These measures were designed to limit the influence of the executive in the electoral process and to curb the past trend of systematic interference. Indeed, pursuant to a Syrian-Saudi agreement, a new government was named that had the assigned charge of monitoring elections. Furthermore, given the controversial climate of 2005, the government decided to invite international monitoring organizations to legitimize and validate election results.

Another difference between the 2005 elections and its predecessors concerns the players. The usual divide between government and opposition gave way to unconventional forms of competition. In some districts, anti-Syrian factions that form the opposition squared off against each other in several rounds of the elections. In contrast to past polls, Lebanese authorities did not intervene in favor of certain candidates and against others. And despite constituency boundaries being gerrymandered by Syria's tailored electoral law, elections were held for the first time without Syrian interference. During the last 15 years, few political decisions have been made without consulting Damascus, and it was widely understood that Syria routinely intervened in all affairs of the Lebanese government. Local decisions were tailored to suit Syrian preferences, and no decision was made that would have even the remote likelihood of offending Damascus.

Although the campaign of 2005 was to a considerable extent focused on questions of power, there were, of course, substantive issues that played a role. In the past, the issues in the campaign were devoid of political significance or programs. In 2005, important issues were brought to the agenda: the sovereignty, independence and freedom of Lebanese territories; political reforms; and rejection of Syrian influence.

On the other hand, a few developments have beyond any doubt shaped the outcome of the elections. UN security Council resolution 1559, which calls for the retreat of Syrian troops and the dismantling of Hezbollah, among other things, led to a political cleavage within the country's elite and played a role in alliance-building among the various factions. …

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