Lebanon News

In Hezbollah, Amal stronghold, list takes on ‘authority’

Shiite candidate Salah Mahdi Nour Eddine in Sidon, Wednesday, March 21, 2018. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

SIDON, Lebanon: A candidate for a Shiite seat in southern Lebanon’s Bint Jbeil is aiming to offset what he sees as “unjust” dominance by the Amal Movement and Hezbollah in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Salah Mahdi Noureddine, an activist and former Communist Party member, is currently running for one of eight Shiite seats in the merged Bint Jbeil-Nabatieh-Marjayoun-Hasbaya electoral district. His platform: fighting widespread “corruption” and “theft” by the political powers that be, according to a poster displayed on his campaign car during a visit to Sidon Thursday.

Noureddine and four other candidates from his district recently formed a new electoral list, still unnamed, that they hope will rival long-standing political parties Amal and Hezbollah.

Other members of the new list include public health specialist Rima Hmeid for another of the three Shiite seats in Bint Jbeil, engineer Jamil Blout for a Shiite seat in Nabatieh, engineer Fadi Abu Jamra for the Orthodox seat in Marjayoun and lawyer Akram Qais for the Druze seat in Hasbaya.

If successful, their list would upend decades of the Amal-Hezbollah dominance in the Shiite-majority electoral district, where all but two of the 11 current MPs belong to Shiite power duo.

But for the first time in Lebanon’s history, lists like Noureddine’s actually have a fighting chance against the entrenched political parties.

Noureddine’s list is one of a handful of independent newcomers across Lebanon taking advantage of a new proportional electoral law ratified last year.

The law replaces a previous, winner-takes-all majoritarian vote law that allowed electoral lists with a slim majority to win all the seats in a district.

For residents of Noureddine’s district in southern Lebanon, the previous electoral law meant Amal and Hezbollah could dominate general elections, allowing them to reign there virtually unchallenged.

Noureddine told The Daily Star that he hopes his own independent list can run alongside a recently formed nationwide alliance, Tahalof Watani, which claims to offer an alternative to established political parties that critics accuse of nepotism, sectarianism and corruption – including Amal and Hezbollah, he said.

“Here in the south, there is an alliance between Amal and Hezbollah,” Noureddine said, criticizing the two parties for allegedly running their constituencies based on divisive “sectarian logic.”

“We are proud that we are running against [these] symbols of authority,” he said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 23, 2018, on page 3.

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