U.S. lawmakers called on the Biden administration Wednesday to ensure that the upcoming Lebanese parliamentary elections on May 15 will be held on time.
“We write to urge that the administration continues to call upon and work with Lebanese officials to ensure that parliamentary elections scheduled for May 15, 2022, are carried out on time, transparently and free of corruption,” the bipartisan letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. “With dueling political and economic crises, the May parliamentary elections are the first opportunity the Lebanese people will have to cast their ballots since protests in the country began in 2019 after years of corruption and mismanagement.”
Lebanon is currently experiencing what the World Bank has described as one the world’s worst financial crises in the last 150 years. The nation’s currency has been depleted by 90%, there is hyperinflation and prices have risen by as much as 600% for some food items. As a result, millions of Lebanese citizens have been thrown into deep poverty and are unable to buy food and other essentials, while power outages and lack of fuel have become endemic. The most basic public services, such as healthcare, have collapsed. In fact, some predict that the lack of electricity – Lebanon’s national grid is reportedly supplying the nation with only two hours of electricity per day – means the elections will not be able to take place at all.
The World Bank believes the crisis is deliberate and has been directly caused by the nation’s elite.
“Lebanon’s deliberate depression is orchestrated by the country’s elite that has long captured the state and lived off its economic rents,” according to a report by the World Bank publication, Lebanon Economic Monitor.
Lebanon’s disastrous financial situation has been compounded by a political crisis that is causing Lebanon to fall apart. Since the August 2020 Beirut port blasts – which killed more than 200 people and injured thousands, destroying almost half of Beirut in the process and leaving 300,000 people homeless and billions of dollars in material damage – Lebanon has been on an ever increasing downward spiral.
Iran’s terrorist proxy Hezbollah and its allies have infiltrated the top echelons and institutions of the country. Even if elections are held on time next month, it is questionable whether the massive and entrenched presence of Hezbollah and its allies – in combination with the endemic corruption – will enable anything resembling fair elections.
Next month’s elections are expected to become a confrontation between Hezbollah and its opponents. Dr. Imad Salamey, associate professor of political science at the Lebanese American University, expects Hezbollah and its allies to win most districts in the upcoming elections.
“It will be fierce against Hezbollah in few districts, but in general Hezbollah and its allies will sweep the majority of districts as the opponents are engaged in fragmenting internal side battles,” Salamey said. “After all, the electoral system is customized to reproduce the same political regime along its ruling elites. Mostly the Sunni seats will be up for grabs, favoring elites attached to the Syrian regime.”
Mohammed Chebaro, a British-Lebanese journalist and media consultant, has warned that the upcoming elections will only cement Hezbollah’s grip on the country.
“In my view, Lebanon’s forthcoming election is unlikely to produce a new democratic leadership that is capable of ushering the country away from its failed state status,” Chebaro wrote. “Holding credible elections is one of the main steps Lebanon’s major donors are insisting on if they are to deliver more assistance to the country. However, if the Interior Ministry can find such funds, I recommend it use them to help those most in need in the bankrupt country instead of wasting them on a process that has seen the electoral laws amended to fit and reproduce the same political class that has been supervising the descent of Lebanon toward the abyss.”
“For decades, Lebanon’s political, social and economic stagnation has been supervised by a corrupt political class propped up and held hostage by an armed group serving some foreign geostrategic interests that are beyond the means of such a small country… Few in the country believe the polls are likely to transform Lebanon’s fortunes, apart from by further cementing the grip on power of the Iran-backed Shiite group Hezbollah and its allies.”