Hezbollah’s election campaign for the upcoming Lebanese parliamentary elections in May heavily relies on fear-mongering about the possibility of a war with Israel.
Hezbollah has played a major role in formulating a new electoral law that helps it infiltrate parliamentary representation allotted to other Lebanese sects and gives it control over Shiite representation.
Hezbollah’s poor governance
However, it seems the party still faces problems with its support base. These problems mainly relate to the lack of economic development in areas under its control and there is growing criticism of its MPs for not improving the economic situation over the past nine years. Baalbeck and Hermel (located in the Beqaa Valley) which supported the party’s establishment in 1982 suffer from the worst forms of economic ills. They have been most neglected, although Hezbollah has represented them for more than 25 years. They suffer from serious social and economic problems in addition to a high rate of lawlessness and the spread of criminal gangs.
To overcome these objections, Hezbollah has resorted to intimidating people and is warning of a possible war with Israel, claiming it to be an imminent threat. Hezbollah is also issuing warnings of a possible ISIS threat, irrespective of the fact that its Secretary General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah announced the party’s victory against ISIS just a few months ago!
Hezbollah is thus incapable of objectively answering the questions of its supporters regarding the poor performance of its MPs in improving the situation in Beqaa. It has also nominated the same MPs, who are accused of dereliction and corruption, for the upcoming elections – a move closer to defiance. Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah thus warned of the election of MPs who are supported by ISIS and by those who fund the organization.
“If I have to visit each village (in Beqaa) to garner support for Hezbollah’s electoral list, then I will,” the secretary general said. This clearly shows that people in Beqaa no longer commit to the directions of Hezbollah and its secretary general like they did in the past. Therefore, there are fears that not all of Hezbollah’s candidates will win there, unlike what has happened since 1992 and until 2009.
In response to objections by the Shiite community, Hezbollah has resorted to tactics of intimidation and is fear mongering about an impending war with ISIS, which it claims is making a comeback.
It has also used its media outlets and social media pages to air and post large amounts of reports – both real ones and fabricated ones – about an imminent Israeli war against it. However, Israeli stances are the same and nothing has changed. Thus, there is nothing that justifies these reports.
To respond to citizens’ questions on livelihood and employment, all what Hezbollah has done is intimidate people. Hezbollah Deputy Secretary-General Naim Qassem has said that Hezbollah is confident about its list of candidates, which he believes will win particularly in Shiite areas and that the movement will also help its allies to win. This means that Hezbollah wants to guarantee itself a parliamentary bloc that has a solid Shiite base and MPs from different sects. Hezbollah aims to use this strong bloc to confront any constitutional or legal issues that may threaten its strategic and military role.
However, this does not mean that Hezbollah takes the constitutional process seriously. In 2009, when the March 14 coalition won the majority of parliamentary seats, Hezbollah negated this victory, thanks to the power of its arms, and shifted the parliamentarian majority in its favor. Hezbollah even succeeded in toppling the cabinet of Saad Hariri, the leader of the March 14 bloc, and replaced him with Najib Mikati. Hezbollah’s arms are thus enough to alter constitutional formulas in its favor.
At the same time, Hezbollah is greatly interested in the parliamentary elections. It helped prepare the new electoral law and followed through with the process until it was approved. It has struck alliances and now awaits the holding of elections because it wants to show everyone that it still enjoys popular support. Parliamentary elections, despite all their defects – especially amid Hezbollah’s power of arms and ability to forge results in some electoral districts that are under the party’s control like the case is in Beqaa and the south – reflect the people’s political opinions and how they have changed especially within Hezbollah’s strongholds.
Hezbollah is using all its might to fix electoral lists – not only its own but also its rivals! It’s using its political, financial and security influence to divide its rivals’ lists and politically infiltrate them.
Driving wedge in opposition
According to some sources, Hezbollah has to some extent succeeded in deepening the rift between Lebanese Forces and the Future Movement in Baalbeck, thus confusing the latter parties’ supposed allies in the Shiite community. This rift has also contributed in reviving Hezbollah’s hopes that its electoral lists will not be significantly infiltrated.
An activist who is working on forming an electoral list that opposes Hezbollah and that includes all the parties which have been victimized by it has said: “In addition to managing its own electoral lists, it’s also managing its rivals,” hinting that it’s not unlikely that Hezbollah has struck a deal with other parties “to prevent its parliamentary infiltration in the Northern Beqaa.” In exchange, Hezbollah will owe the other party a political favor.
The activist also claims that Hezbollah can go to any length to avoid embarrassment in the upcoming elections. Many of those who have a share in governance with it are willing to sell their prospects of victory for a cheap price by attempting to divide parties that oppose Hezbollah or weaken these parties’ via multiple electoral lists in several districts, particularly in northern Beqaa. This is the prospect Hezbollah is banking on ahead of the scheduled elections!
This article is also available in Arabic.
Ali Al-Amin is a journalist based in Lebanon and is the Editor of news site Janoubia.com.