Incidents of political violence including an assault on one candidate and an attack on the office of another are casting a shadow over Lebanon’s first general election in nine years.
The May 6 vote will take place using a complicated new electoral law. It is not expected to cause major changes to the government or its policies. Analysts expect Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri will head the next cabinet.
But the law has made the outcome less predictable in some places. This has sharpened local rivalries and is encouraging parties to campaign extra hard.
“The threats to candidates, men and women, are escalating. We expect more of them as we approach the election, and we expect an increase in violence,” said Omar Kabboul, the executive director of the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections (LADE), a group of independent electoral observers.
“The outcome of the elections is uncertain. The more uncertain the outcome, the more fear there is within the parties and the bigger the agitation in speeches.”
Some 28 years after Lebanon’s civil war, nobody expects any major strife, but the country has been plagued by repeated bouts of political instability that have weighed on its economy.
The Lebanese system divides up power according to strict sectarian quotas, with parliament’s 128 seats split evenly between Christian and Muslim groups. The flare-ups reported so far have pitted rivals from the same sect against each other.
The army intervened on Sunday night to break up a confrontation between supporters of rival Druze parties south of Beirut in which guns were fired in the air, a security source said. The standoff spiralled from a row over electoral posters.
Also on Sunday, an independent Shi’ite candidate said Hezbollah supporters beat him up in their southern Lebanon stronghold, where he is standing against the two dominant Shi’ite parties Hezbollah and Amal.
Ali al-Amin said a group of more than 30 Hezbollah supporters accosted him while he was hanging an election poster in his home village of Shaqra in Bint Jbeil district.
“I accuse... a political side, which is Hezbollah, of arranging this incident and I hold it mainly responsible,” he said, adding that the group “could not tolerate the presence of one photo or poster of a candidate who is against them”.
Ali Saleh, the pro-Hezbollah head of the local council, said it was an “individual incident” that was now in the hands of the judiciary and security forces. “Ali al-Amine is a candidate ... and every candidate has the right to practice his media campaign and his electoral campaign,” he said.
نستخدم ملفات الكوكيز لنسهل عليك استخدام مواقعنا الإلكترونية ونكيف المحتوى والإعلانات وفقا لمتطلباتك واحتياجاتك الخاصة، لتوفير ميزات وسائل التواصل الاجتماعية ولتحليل حركة المرور لدينا...اعرف أكثر