BEIRUT: Student elections in Lebanese universities have always been an indicator of political parties’ ability to attract the new generation to their ranks.
But the triumph of independents in recent elections at the American University of Beirut (AUB), the Lebanese American University, St. Joseph University and Notre Dame University — Louaize suggests that something has changed.
“There’s a major shift in students’ mindset and in the issues they find pressing. They harbor anger toward the system that governs their country,” Dr. Talal Nizameddin, the AUB’s dean of student affairs, told Arab News. Students have described the results of these elections as historic.
Political parties “have lost students’ confidence in them,” Dr. Ziad Abdel Samad, social affairs expert and former secretary-general of the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections, told Arab News.
The parties “are unable to reach” students, he said, “either due to the absence of on-campus life in universities because of the COVID-19 pandemic, or due to the changing mindset of the youth, who are monitoring the role of parties in power, their corruption, and the economic and social crises they led the country to.”
He added: “The biggest question remains: Is this shift among university students an indication of a shift in the mindset of all the Lebanese? Meaning, will the independents or partisans win if parliamentary elections are held?”
Mohammed Mansour, the Progressive Socialist Party’s youth commissioner, told Arab News: “The revolution and protests have weakened all parties in Lebanon without exception. But the revolution hasn’t presented a clear, consistent program that guarantees a transition toward real change.”
During last year’s street protests, the civil movement resulted in the formation of a new student movement that, according to Abdel Samad, “hasn’t yet matured to the level of a party, but rather is trying to play the role of an alternative.”
He added: “This new movement expresses itself through secular student clubs, some of which are left-wing and others liberal. The traditional parties are no longer able to convince educated generations, so these secular clubs are starting to become successful.”