BEIRUT: Lebanese parties have been rushing to submit their candidacies for the upcoming parliamentary elections to the Ministry of Interior with the deadline for registration, March 15, soon approaching.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, 84, submitted his candidacy application for another four-year parliamentary session, alongside ruling party members.
Applications were previously limited to independent candidates and representatives of the civil movement.
The number of registered candidates jumped to nearly 100 as of Wednesday evening, with expectations for more candidacies soon.
On May 15, voters will vote for their 128 MPs, which will be preceded by civil servants who are working on the elections voting on May 12.
On May 6 and 8, Lebanese voters living abroad will cast their votes.
The cost of holding the elections is estimated at $15.5 million.
The electoral battle will kick-off in earnest in April when registration for the lists under which the candidates will run begins.
Political jostling and heightened engagement is expected once alliances unravel and the battle to prevent the ruling parties from gaining parliamentary majority starts.
Around 3,970,000 voters will partake in the upcoming elections, including some 225,000 voters living abroad, most of whom are expected to vote for representatives from the Oct. 17, 2019 revolution.
Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah announced some of the party’s candidates on Wednesday evening, with some “young generation candidates” adding to the crop of currently sitting MPs.
The Amal Movement is expected to announce the names of its candidates in the coming days. According to leaked information, Berri will retain a sizable portion of the current MPs, especially those who are being prosecuted for crimes surrounding the Beirut port explosion.
Secretary-General of the Arab Socialist Baath Party Ali Hijazi submitted his candidacy to run in the Baalbek-Hermel district.
This party is considered an extension of the Baath Party in Syria. Hijazi was recently elected as secretary-general, and he is considered an ally of Hezbollah and the Syrian regime.
The Lebanese Forces Party continues to announce the names of its candidates in party festivals, while the Free Patriotic Movement is working to finalize its candidates’ list. Meanwhile, the Progressive Socialist Party is yet to announce its candidates, with party head Walid Jumblatt quoted as saying that political conditions are not suitable to make any changes in his parliamentary bloc.
Small parties are awaiting news of agreements and understandings between major powers to determine their place in the electoral lists.
Hezbollah is seeking to consolidate its alliance with the Amal Movement in all electoral districts and is also hoping to ally with the FPM in every district where it can convince its voters to support the movement.
However, confusion still prevails on the Sunni scene, as the head of the Future Movement, Saad Hariri, announced his withdrawal from political life and asked party members not to run for the upcoming elections under the movement’s name.
Some Future Movement supporters vowed to boycott the elections, while others demanded that the movement resumes its work and does not leave the political arena to Hezbollah and its allies.
Several traditional political leaders in the Sunni community announced that they would not run for elections, including former Prime Minister Tammam Salam, while former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora insisted on not boycotting the elections.
A source from the Future Movement told Arab News: “Some believe we need to remain outside the system since neither our presence nor our absence can make a difference; the proof is how Hariri was stabbed in the back by all ruling parties.
“In addition, Hezbollah would have no Sunni cover for any of its figures if we boycott the elections.”
The source added: “Others think that boycotting the elections would allow other parties to disrupt Sunni political unity.
“We need to have a limited number of candidates and we must vote extensively and effectively.
“They insist that since Hariri never asked us to boycott the elections, we should not make such hasty decisions, especially since most of the state institutions are not yet constitutionally controlled by Hezbollah.
“We must stop talking about treason, this is what serves Lebanon best.”
A source in Dar Al-Fatwa, the country’s highest Sunni religious authority, expressed concern that Sunni votes could end up dispersed amid this confusion.
“We have concerns about Sunni religious parties succeeding in filling the void, especially if they do not adhere to the logic of the state and tend to adopt the logic of militias,” they told Arab News on condition of anonymity.
Civil society candidates were among the first to submit their candidacies, albeit timidly.
However, this civil movement, with all its groups, has not yet finalized its candidacies or broadcast which districts it plans to fight the ruling parties.
Election expert Walid Fakhreddine said: “There are a large number of candidates in all regions, especially those in which Hezbollah’s alliances prevail. Announcing candidacies was delayed in order to finish negotiations; this is not necessarily a bad thing.”
Fakhreddine stressed: “Candidacies have been delayed because the election law requires each candidate to pay 30 million Lebanese pounds ($20,000), nonrefundable should they choose to withdraw their candidacy.
“In addition, candidates are facing issues in opening bank accounts for electoral campaigns in accordance with the law, and work is underway to resolve this before March 15.”