Independents court voters amid divisions as Lebanon gears up for elections

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Beirut - As Lebanese voters head to the polls, many will undoubtedly find fresh faces on their ballots as independent groups attempt to challenge the country’s political elites and establishments.

Among those new names voters in eastern Beirut will read on Sunday will be Ibrahim Mneimneh's, who is the founder of the Kelna Beirut, an off-shoot of the Lebanese grassroots campaign “Beirut Madinati” established in 2016 and contested the municipality elections then.

Back then, his group were part of many independent groups that rose up Lebanon’s 2015 garbage crisis but have split from the others leaving Mneimneh's list to contest against seven other lists in Beirut’s second district.

“We [Kelna Beiru] see the upcoming parliamentary elections as a station to engage with the people and show them our policies. We are encouraging voters to go to the polls as we see this election more like a referendum battle. A political line is needed that is in opposition to the establishment and out list represents the second voice needed in Beirut; a dissenting voice that believes in the application of the constitution and any vote for Kelna Beirut is a vote toward this approach,” Mneimneh told Al Arabiya.

As the leader of his list, Mneimneh will go head-to-head with eight other lists including one lead by current Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri and his Future for Beirut list of candidates.

Ibrahim Mneimneh lebanon elections
Ibrahim Mneimneh lebanon elections

Kelna Beirut decided to contest the parliamentary elections on a single list while other independents chose to forge alliances under an umbrella coalition named Kuluna Watani.

The Kuluna Watani bloc will contest nine districts with 66 independent candidates.

lebanon elections Paula Yacoubian
lebanon elections Paula Yacoubian

Among those names will be Paula Yacoubian, a former journalist with pro-Hariri Future TV channel who resigned from her position earlier in January this year so she could contest the elections as an independent. She is among an independent list that will contest Beirut’s first district.

“There were a lot of districts were we did not put forward a list as we saw those districts being dispersed and scattered politically. In Beirut’s first district, there are no independents except on our Kuluna Watani list. The rest have lists with candidates who claim independency or those who have been in politics for a long time,” Yacoubian told Al Arabiya.

We are All Beirut kelna beirut list
We are All Beirut kelna beirut list

Although constituencies might not see direct battles between civil societies on Election Day, the faces of the movement that had a role in 2015 protests against the garbage crisis withdrew from the elections as many found themselves at odds with the formations of civil blocs. It is because of this that analysts and observers says they believe these differences and division would perhaps even eliminate any electoral chances at winning seats.

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