Lebanon’s major parties are preparing for the May elections

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Lebanon LebanonMore than 500 candidates, including 69 women, have applied to run in the May 15 parliamentary elections in Lebanon, with the country’s interior ministry anticipating the number to skyrocket before the deadline on Tuesday at midnight. By late Friday, 517 individuals had filed their applications.

There were 976 candidates in the 2018 elections, including 113 women, however the number of candidates dropped after the registration period ended. As a consequence, 597 candidates, including 86 women, were re-elected in 77 seats across Lebanon. After the compilation of electoral lists on April 4, the picture for this year’s election will become clearer. Candidates will compete for the country’s 128 parliamentary seats in 15 electoral districts when voters go to the polls on May 15.

On Monday, a handful of the major parties will make their formal candidate announcements. At a press conference, Speaker Nabih Berri will present his nominees, which include current MPs and defendants in the Beirut Port explosion proceedings. On Sunday, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) unveiled its candidates during its seventh annual convention. Gebran Bassil, the party’s head, blasted his political opponents, including the March 14 Alliance and the civic movement, in a speech, calling them “fake revolutions” that “shall fall.”

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Hezbollah’s cooperation with the FPM in the electoral lists, which will be produced later, “is not a program relationship, but a process of merging votes,” Bassil stated. Hezbollah wants to make sure that the FPM wins as many seats as possible in parliament. “Whoever fails the Amal Movement and Hezbollah is a collaborator in the greatest regional and international onslaught that seeks to destroy Hezbollah, which defends Lebanon,” Hezbollah officials warned.

“The project of the March 8 Alliance (including Hezbollah and its allies) in the elections boils down to obtaining two-thirds of the members of Parliament and thus imposing their spoiled candidate as president of the Republic, (referring to MP Gebran Bassil), controlling constitutional amendments, changing the system, and turning the issue of de facto weapons into a constitutional reality, which will not withstand scrutiny,” said MP Wael Abou Faour of the Progressive Socialist Party.

On March 14, the Lebanese Forces party will open its campaign, which will coincide with the 14th anniversary of the Cedar Revolution. After the Future Movement requested its members to quit if they opted to run for Parliament, candidates from Lebanon’s Sunni sect are anticipated to feature a number of independent figures, including those loyal to the late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Najib Mikati, the Prime Minister of Lebanon, is expected to withdraw from the elections. Rola Tabsh, Mohammed Hajjar, and Asim Araji, all FM MPs, stated they would do the same, pledging their allegiance to Saad Hariri.

On Saturday, six human rights organizations started a cooperative endeavor to bring together progressive opposition forces in a single electoral front. The gathering paved the way for the creation of a joint working document, which will be used to unveil the candidates early next week. However, Lebanon’s increasing economic crisis and the danger of the nation collapsing further in the two months running up to the May 15 election continue to jeopardize parliamentary elections.

“The money for the elections is not yet available,” President Michel Aoun is reported as saying. Opinion surveys conducted on an almost weekly basis by numerous private organizations revealed a drop in voter excitement for candidates, as well as an increase in political ambivalence and hostility of the ruling authorities.

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