05/14/2022, 09.02
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The unknown factor of 'tactical' voting

by Fady Noun

Lebanon goes to the polls tomorrow 15 May in an election polarised around Hezbollah and its allies. The danger of the multiplication of lists and the dispersion of discontent. The problem of single preference within a blocked list. Will Christians and expatriates tip the balance?





Beirut (AsiaNews) - Ahead of the Lebanese parliamentary elections, scheduled for tomorrow 15 May, in constituencies with a Christian majority such as Beirut, Kesrouan-Jbeil, in the Metn, part of Lebanon-North and Zahlé, some voters are thinking of sacrificing their vote. The doubt is whether to favour a candidate of their choice or to bet on another, whom they believe may have a better chance of being elected, in a reality extremely polarised around Hezbollah and its allies, primarily the Free Patriotic Movement (CLP).

This is what is referred to as a 'tactical vote' and which, according to experts, could benefit the Lebanese Forces, which seek to oust Gebran Bassil's CPL as the main party of the Christian electorate. However, the question is to what extent will this vote favour better known faces from the 'traditional' opposition?

In the current state of affairs, for a population frustrated by the ruling class's mismanagement of government, the useful vote, or even the vote-against, is the only option on the table. And the front promoting popular protest would be credited with around 11 or 12 seats in the hemicycle, excluding MPs elected in the traditional opposition parties. The main argument of the proponents of the useful vote is the multiplication of the opposition lists created following the 17 October protests, the dispersion of the front expressing discontent, which ends up discouraging voters in the constituencies. 

Interviewed by L'Orient-Le Jour (Loj), a voter from Zalhé says: 'My husband has made his decision, he will vote FL to oppose Hezbollah and its allies. For my part, I have not yet chosen. I would be inclined to turn to one of the main protest figures, although I am aware of the political issues that require a useful vote. But socio-economic issues are also important to me, and it is essential to vote according to my convictions'. 

This attitude is typical of what is happening within the Christian electorate, but not only. According to a political source, the useful vote "will be exercised mainly by those who would have actually chosen for change at other times, but would prefer to concentrate their votes on the parties of the so-called 'sovereignist' camp, which opposes Hezbollah and has made this opposition its main battlefield. And its ultimate goal would be to prevent the faction that can be traced back to Hezbollah from obtaining a large majority in parliament'. 

This issue raises concerns among the parties originating from the protest movement. According to Laury Haytayan, general coordinator of the Taqaddom party but who is not a candidate in the elections, the element that distorts the game is the single preference vote, within a blocked list. For voters, in essence, the calculation becomes purely mathematical when it comes to knowing who to support and who has the best chance of entering the hemicycle. Moreover, unlike the traditional parties, the new formations have no useful criteria for assessing their electoral weight before the results of the 15 May elections. So how can we judge the chances of new faces and say that they are more or less likely to be elected than others?". 

On the front of the traditional parties that are now positioned among the oppositions, such as the Lebanese Forces, the National Bloc, the Kataëb party, Michel Mouawad or the Liberal National Party, there is talk of a 'changing wind'. "In recent weeks, we have seen," explains a source close to the Lebanese Forces, "that a growing part of the voters have understood that these elections are a clash between two political projects and are preparing to choose on this basis by favouring the parties that have the ability and courage to oppose the Hezbollah camp. Nasrallah's [Hassan, Hezbollah's secretary general] latest speech, in which he challenges those who want to take the weapons away from his formation, has done us a great service: he has convinced many people to choose candidates who are more capable of winning and realising this project of opposition'. 

Analyst Sami Nader, an expert on politics and economics, a regular the opposition Mtv, says "the tactical vote, which aims to send as many opponents as possible to Parliament, could restore the true role of the opposition by reintroducing real counter-power' in the hemicycle. 

"However," he warns, "the useful vote does not only mean systematically voting in favour of the traditional parties, under the pretext that their chances are better. We must not fall into the trap of their speeches, which basically state: voting useful is voting for us. If a new figure has a chance of passing, it must be supported. The important thing is that the candidate meets two criteria: that he is clear on the issue of sovereignty, but equally clear on the issues of good governance, structural reforms and the fight against corruption'. 

A strong Christian turnout

Will the expatriate vote tip the balance? Although the ballot boxes that collected the ballots of 142,041 non-residents (or 63.05% of the registered voters) will not be counted until 15 May, the official data on the participation rate published by the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs already give an initial verdict. By the admission of Interior Minister Bassam Maoulaoui, it was the constituencies with a Christian majority that recorded 'the highest participation rates'. And the figures prove it. Indeed, the four caza [electoral districts] with the highest mobilisation are Metn (72.25%), Kesrouan (71.67%), Batroun (69.63%) and Jbeil (69.61%).


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