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Asharq Al-Awsat
Asharq Al-Awsat
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat

Lebanese Vow 'Revenge' against Ruling Elite at the Ballot Boxes

Lebanese expats queue to cast their votes for the May 15 legislative election at Lebanon's Consulate in the Gulf emirate of Dubai on May 8, 2022. (AFP)

Joe, a Lebanese man in his 30s, is determined to "seek revenge" against his country's ruling elite by voting for forces of change and the opposition in Sunday's parliamentary elections.

Joe, who hails from the region of Jezzine, east of the southern city of Sidon, told Asharq Al-Awsat: "I want revenge against the ruling class that has led Lebanon to complete collapse and looted the funds of depositors and their life's savings."

He admitted that he had voted for the Free Patriotic Movement, founded by President Michel Aoun and now headed by his son-in-law and MP Gebran Bassil, during the 2018 elections.

His position has since changed after the FPM, which holds the presidency and the parliamentary majority, "had stood idly by as the people lost their life's savings."

"This presidency led us to the bottom of the abyss and so punishment is inevitable," he stressed.

This view is shared by several Lebanese who are seeking collective punishment of the ruling elite. They will vote along the slogan of the 2019 popular uprising of "Everyone means everyone."

Others have singled out Aoun and Bassil and their ally Hezbollah, blaming them for the current state of affairs in Lebanon, saying they will "reap what they sow" at the ballot boxes.

Lebanese seeking the "revenge vote" have expressed their complete rejection of the current political class, blaming it for the loss of their life's savings at banks, endless power cuts, the rise in the prices of medicine, fuel and food, the collapse of the local currency and several other numerous crises.

Moreover, many of these voters believe that the elections will be a prime opportunity to curb Hezbollah's influence that has "isolated Lebanon from its Arab environment."

On the other hand, many Lebanese have expressed their disappointment and frustration with the opposition and forces of change that failed in uniting their ranks and producing unified lists for the elections.

Dina, who votes in Beirut's second electoral district, said she was torn between voting for the forces of change or submitting a blank vote.

Dina, who is in her 40s, had taken part in the 2019 protests against the ruling elite and dropped her support for political parties. She told Asharq Al-Awsat that she is disappointed that the revolution has since 2019 become "scattered" with its members failing to field a united list against the ruling elite.

In the northern city of Tripoli, one resident said he will vote for the forces of change even though he was not impressed with their candidates.

The man, unemployed and in his 20s, told Asharq Al-Awsat that his family is divided between those who want to vote for the ruling elite and his siblings and cousins, who will vote for the forces of change.

"I am aware that voting for the forces of change will not take us from the abyss to the top in the blink of an eye, but it will at least drive a nail in the coffin of the ruling system," he remarked.

"We know the result of a vote for the ruling elite. We have endured it for the past 20 years."

"A boycott of the elections is an implicit acceptance of the current rulers, while a vote for the forces of change offers a glimmer of hope for us and punishes the ruling system," he stressed.

Elections expert Abbas Bou Zeid told Asharq Al-Awsat that votes for the opposition are an act of revenge against the ruling class.

He acknowledged that several people have been disappointed with the opposition for failing to field a unified list. The opposition groups have shown a lack of cohesion, which may prompt people to boycott the elections or vote blank.

"The opposition forces are still in the nascent phase," he remarked, citing the numerous opposition lists that have been fielded.

He noted that it remains to be seen whether the Aounists and Shiite duo of Hezbollah and the Amal movement will be punished in the elections. "We will find out when the results are announced on May 16."

Another elections expert, Kamal Feghali said several people will be seeking revenge against the ruling elite in the elections.

He cited studies he had carried out that show that the FPM will lose at least 7 points in its popularity in the elections. The FPM, which had won 26 percent of seats at parliament, is set to reap less than 20 percent this year.

As for Hezbollah, he noted that anger is brimming among its Shiite support base, with 35 percent of them now opposed to the party.

This rejection could have been reflected better had the forces of the revolution produced a unified opposition list, he lamented.

He revealed that 37 percent of people have expressed their determination to vote for the forces of change to punish the ruling elite. The number of those angry with the ruling class is much higher than this and will be revealed by the results of the vote.

He said the opposition's failure to unify its ranks will cost it in the elections. Prior to the announcement of their electoral lists, the opposition had enjoyed 45 percent support among the people. That number dropped to 20 percent after they failed to unite, with their lists falling below the voters' expectations.

"Unfortunately, the forces of change have appeared scattered and they have not proven their seriousness, which has disappointed the voters," said Feghali.

This disappointment may be reflected in a boycott or blank votes, or even votes for members of the ruling class beyond the FPM and Hezbollah.

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