Lebanon's First Postwar Parliamentary Election, 1992: An Imposed Choice, by Farid el Khazen
The Electoral Process and the New Parliament
Elections were held over the course of three successive Sundays beginning on 23 August 1992, in an atmosphere of great political tension, with an electoral boycott and call for a strike by the boycott's leaders. The electoral process did not, however, take place in the constituency of Kisirwan-Ftouh where candidates withdrew their candidacies in the face of popular anti-election pressure (the Kisirwan elections were postponed, then held on I I October). Compared with previous elections, especially in the first three decades after independence, the 1992 election was not subjected to the direct government intervention of earlier ones. However, the intervention that took place prior to election day through the division of electoral constituencies and the composition of the electoral list had a determining impact on the results. Large-scale irregularities, such as inaccurate voter registration and ballot rigging, also tarnished the 1992 election, especially in the North and the Bekaa'.34 In addition, overtly armed militias, such as Hizballah and Amal in the Bekaa' and in the South, affected both the election campaign and the results.
Significantly, Lebanese parliamentary electoral procedures have been taking place within a context of steady improvement. Despite differing opinions about electoral improprieties in Lebanon, all observers agree that the 1947 election - which led to President Bechara el-Khouri's downfall in 1952 - was the most tarnished by violations in voting and tabulation.35 The 1972 elections, relatively speaking, were the fairest and had the least direct government intervention in the voting and tabulation processes.
Although it is difficult to present tangible evidence of election day violations, rumours and contradictory accounts of a single incident suggest broader violations or tampering. The differences between constituencies became clear when the votes were tabulated. In some constituencies, results were announced within 24 hours of voting; in others the tally lasted five or six days and took place amid the confusion of rumours and accusations traded among candidates. Questions and doubts abounded about occurrences in the Bekaa's three constituencies (especially Ba'albak- Hermel), in the North and, to a lesser extent, the South and Beirut.
Ironically, the Speaker of Parliament himself was the harshest critic, resigning from his post as a protest against the electoral process in Ba'albak-Hermel.36 He accused his Hizballah competitors of falsifying the elections, while they and his other opponents retorted that fraud had indeed occurred, but to al-Husseini's advantage. After tabulation had ended in the Bekaa's two other constituencies (Zahleh and Western Bekaa') where competition was strong, serious questioning ensued about the government's handling of the Ba'albak-Hermel elections, in which the two main competitors had close relations with Damascus. Whether or not Damascus had the ulterior motives attributed to it in Ba'albak-Hermel, the election in this constituency was not free of manipulation.
An official report on the its tabulation process described in detail the infringements that occurred on election day: breaking and stealing ballot boxes, the disappearance and concealment of voter registration lists, vote tabulations unsigned by the government officials, and tampering.37 Nonetheless, Hizballah's sweeping victory in winning eight seats (four for its Shi'a party members and four for its allies -two Sunni, one Maronite and one Greek Catholic) was a sign of the party's influence and high level of organisation in the region.
There were also doubts about some of the results in the North, especially in the constituencies of the qada's of Tripoli (al-Dinniyeh) and Akkar. There were similar doubts about the Western Bekaa' where Minister of the Interior Sami al-Khatib was a candidate, and about the constituency of Zahleh where the candidates for the hotly-contested Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic seats questioned the results. Another suspicious result was the seat won by a small margin of votes by, Prime Minister Rashid al- Solh, for all the other Sunni members on his list lost to Salim al-Hoss's list and to candidates from the Islamist groups. Finally, in the South and the North, accusations were made by Kamil al-As'ad concerning the widespread falsification of results that targeted his list,38 and sources spoke of artificially large totals received by some candidates to increase their standing.
Composing the Electoral Lists: Choosing 'Winners'
In the 1992 elections, government intervention was most visible in the making of lists of pro- government candidates whom it would support and in the composition of the competing lists even if competition in some constituencies was only in form. Direct intervention by government on election day was not urgently needed. This was due to two reasons. First, the coalition phenomenon, namely the non- competitiveness of the 1992 elections, which gathered influential leaders from various constituencies on one list. This occurred particularly in the North and South, through the expanded constituency. The second reason had to do with the composition of competing lists in a number of electoral constituencies, which in as far as Damascus was concerned kept the final outcome unchanged. Members of competing lists were either supported by Damascus or their relations with Syria were as good as those whom Damascus supported. This was the case in most of the constituencies where there was limited competition, particularly in the North, the South and to a lesser extent Beirut.
In the North, the two principal electoral poles were Omar Karami and Suleiman Franjieh. In other circumstances, it would have been usual for each of the two to lead his own electoral list and compete against the other for parliamentary seats and for the za'ama of the North. But here they formed a single list. This 'negative' unity translated into disagreement over local and regional matters. Who would head the list? Who would choose the list's members, and how? Where would the list be announced and the commemorative picture taken? In Tripoli or Zgharta? These differences continued until only a few days before the election and led to a day- long strike in Tripoli in support of Karami's position; those involved maintained that Karami was not given the freedom to choose the members of the electoral list.39 Differences ended when Damascus intervened.
Likewise, under different circumstances political figures and groups in the South would have been unlikely to have run on the same electoral list. These politicians were either unable to get along (Hizballah and Bahiyya al-Hariri) or were opposed to each other (Hizballah and Amal; the Osseiran and el-Zein families; Nabih Berri and Ali al-Khalil). Only Syria could turn these groups and leaders into allies on election. Kamil al-As'ad, who headed the list competing with Nabih Berri, would not have participated in the elections had he not received Syria's encouragement to do so.
Similarly, in Beirut Salim al-Hoss hesitated to enter the contest until a few days before the election. In other constituencies, especially in Mount Lebanon, no external 'incentives' were needed because there was hardly any competition apart from that of two Sunni candidates on Joumblatt's list, the Shi'a seat in Jbeil and the two Shi'a seats in Ba'abda.
Limited Competitiveness and Unopposed Candidates
In the 1992 election a record number of candidates won unopposed or with nominal competition. This was especially the case with a large number of Christian candidates, as shown in Tables 8 and 9 and Figure 1. The total number of those who won unopposed or without real competition was 54, or about 42 per cent of Parliament's deputies. In a sectarian breakdown, these winners represented 69 per cent of Christian deputies and 16 per cent of Muslim and Druze deputies. Competition was strongest in the Bekaa's three constituencies. In addition, government officials (and Syrian leaders) encouraged candidacies by people who had no political or popular base from which to lure a larger number of people to vote, so the elections would appear strongly contested and participatory. This was particularly evident in the Kisirwan-Ftouh by- elections, with plenty of candidacies in the second phase. Among 24 candidates, five withdrew and only six seriously vied for five seats. The ratio of candidates to seats within a single sect increased from 3.3 per cent to 4.7 per cent between 1972 and 1992, as shown in Table 10 above. This is not due to an actual rise in the level of competition but to the larger number of seats in the 1992 Parliament and the high number of empty seats in the 1972 Parliament. As Table I I above shows, the Shi'a recorded the highest number of candidates, followed by the Sunnis and Druze. The Christian sects recorded lower percentages. The Greek Orthodox registered the highest percentage among the Christian sects, followed by the Protestants and minorities. The Maronites had the lowest percentage among the Christians.
Figure 1: Number of Winners in Unopposed or Nominally-opposed Electoral Contests Among Christians and Non-Christians, 1992
Voter Participation: The Lowest in Parliamentary Elections
The 1992 elections generated the lowest level of voter turnout since independence: 30.34 per cent, compared with the post-1960 percentages that fluctuated between 50 and 53 per cent,40 as shown in Table 12 and Figure 2.
Constituencies and sects contrasted sharply. 'Me Bekaa' had the highest voter turnout and Beirut the lowest. These percentages were recorded in previous elections as well. In 1992, the lowest number was recorded in Jbeil, 6.52 per cent. Jbeil's two unopposed Maronite candidates received 130 and 41 votes each, or 171 out of the district's total of 63,878. Voting came mostly from the district's small Muslim constituency. The highest turnout was recorded in Ba'albak-Hermel, with 51.77 per cent.41 The low turnout and large differences among constituencies and sects resulted from the boycott in Christian areas and the indifference towards the elections among Christian and Muslim voters. Election results reflected this disinterest, even in regions like the Bekaa' and the South where competition historically is usually strong. In some constituencies, especially in the North, Mount Lebanon and the South, elections were rigged to raise the number of voters to deflate the boycott.
It is important to note that voter turnout in some constituencies had little to do with electoral competition, for there were no rival lists to oppose the candidates. The candidates themselves, particularly in North Metn, which only had one electoral list, wanted people to vote to give the election popular legitimacy. They encouraged them to vote, not only as a show of popular support for candidates but to diminish the effects of the boycott and the absence of Christian displaced voters, as in Chouf and Aley.
The Parliamentary Elite
Some patterns of change that have accompanied the parliamentary elite since 1943 remained prevalent in the 1992 elections.42 Because of the unprecedented nature of the elections, the 1992 results cannot be used for analysing the political and social changes of the war years. Trends, especially with regard to the youth vote, that might have been demonstrated by less muddied elections, thus remain unclear.
Transformation of the Parliamentary Elite
The percentage of new deputies in the 1992 Parliament set a record, doubling the 1972 figure. Figure 3 shows that the number of deputies who entered Parliament for the first time rose from approximately 40 per cent in 1972, to 80 per cent. This number has been on the rise, especially since 1943, after the promulgation of new electoral laws that increased the number of deputies (1951 and 1960).
The increase in elite circulation (deputies elected for the first time or who were MPs before 1972) in the 1992 Parliament can be explained as follows. First, the new deputies included political figures who had been active for many years and who had more influence and standing than the parliamentary deputies. Before the 1992 elections, leaders with secure positions such as Walid Joumblatt, Nabih Bcrri, Suleiman Franjieh, Omar Karami and Salim Hoss actually represented their communities more effectively than the many deputies in the previous Parliament. This applies to other politicians whose influence was based on their status as representatives of the prevailing political line, more than their status as representatives of their community or their popular base of support. Some examples include Muhsin Dalloul, Sami al-Khatib, Michel al-Murr, Jean Obeid and other politically active figures who enjoyed more influence than the average deputy of the 1972 Parliament. Thus, both the most prominent leaders and the influential politicians were not really newcomers to the political scene, even though technically they entered Parliament for the first time in 1992. They were appointed deputies in 1991 and many were subsequently elected in weakly contested races.
Second, the addition of 29 parliamentary seats increased the number of new deputies. Apart from the nine seats added to equalise the ChristianMuslim ratio (raising the number from 99 to 108), 20 new seats, divided equally between Muslims and Christians, were added. This increase, in addition to the 31 seats left vacant by the passing of their deputies, opened the way for new figures to fill these seats. This brought the total to 60 seats or 46.87 per cent of the current Parliament's total. Third, the absence of elections for two decades encouraged elite circulation. As in the 1960 election, when the number of seats rose by approximately 30 per cent (from 66 to 99), and the percentage of 'inherited seats' fell from 50 to 30.3 per cent, the 22.2 per cent increase in seats in 1992 (99 to 128) was matched by a fall in the percentage of parliamentary families from 44.4 per cent to 38.28 per cent. This percentage of parliamentary families decreased by approximately 4 per cent from the 1968 to 1972 Parliaments, as shown in Figure 4.
Political inheritance among members of the 1992 Parliament remained (see Figures 5 and 6). With the exception of some Christian political families whose candidates boycotted the elections (Eddé, Gemayel, Chamoun), many established political families placed deputies in the new Parliament. Competition occasionally arose between politicians or candidates within a single family. No new political families emerged in the 1992 elections, but they may in the future, especially within the Muslim sects, if some of the influential leaders remain politically strong and can guarantee the passing of their za'ama to their sons and grandsons. The highest percentage of elite circulation occurred within the Shi'a community, particularly in Ba'albak-Hermel, where sharp electoral competition traditionally prevailed among local political forces. In the South, the increase in the number of deputies encouraged competition among Shi'a political families and new figures. With regard to elite circulation, only 12 deputies who were elected in 1972 and were candidates in 1992 lost their seats, while 19 were re-elected. As for the political heirs of 1972 deputies, only two failed, both in the South.43 The only political family able to send two of its members to Parliament from the same constituency was the el Khazen family in Kisirwan and its two candidates ran on competing lists.
The fourth reason for the increase in the percentage of new faces in tile 1992 Parliament was the Christian boycott, especially in Mount Lebanon and Beirut, where political figures lacking popular support were elected to fill the vacuum. It is ironic that some of these figures had no political or family ties with the constituency they were to represent and some were not known to the voting public in these constituencies.44 After excluding 49 deputies who belonged to political families and the 29 new seats added to Parliament's 99, the number of 'new' deputies becomes 50 (128 minus 78), or 39.06 per cent of the total number of seats.
Three women also entered Parliament. Nayla Moawwad (widow of the late president René Moawwad) from Zgharta and Bahiyya al-Hariri (sister of Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri) from Sidon won with many votes. Mrs Moawwad received the highest number of votes in the North, surpassing the next candidate, Suleiman Franjieh, by about 15,000 votes. Likewise, Mrs al-Hariri, who took second place on her list, about 1000 votes behind Nabih Berri. The third woman elected, who entered Parliament as an 'infiltrator', was Maha Khouri As'ad (Jbeil) who obtained 41 votes out of the district's total of 63,868. Three other women ran but lost. (See Table 13).
The Average Age of the Deputies
The average age of the Lebanese parliamentary deputy has continued its steady rise since 1943,45 as Figure 7 shows. This average, however, which is a little higher than 50, did not increase in the 1992 Parliament.
Figure 8 and Table 14 show the distribution of parliamentary deputies by muhafaza and by sect. The highest and lowest percentages were recorded in Mount Lebanon while the North also had a high number of deputies over 50 years of age. Among sects, the Maronites had a high percentage of deputies over 50, followed by the Sunnis and the Shi'a respectively. While one would have expected the war to produce a more 'youthful' Parliament, the 20-year absence of elections was sufficient to age the war's 'political elite', for we see that the ages of the new MPs range from the late thirties to the late forties, with the exception of two politicians, Talal Arslan and Suleiman Franjieh, who are in their late twenties. Had elections been held a few years earlier, Franjieh and Arslan would have encountered resistance from their families who might.
The 1992 Parliament was also the first not to include deputies from the mandate and independence generations of the 1930s and 1940s. In 1992, only two deputies from the 1950s entered Parliament; the 1972 Parliament had ten deputies who were first elected in the 1940s, and 17 in the 1950s, as Table 15 shows.
Occupational Backgrounds of the Deputies
The most prominent change in the occupational background of deputies in the 1992 Parliament was the increase in the number of businessmen and professionals and the drop in the number of lawyers, who decreased by about 20 per cent, as shown in Figure 9. Table 16 shows the occupational distribution of deputies by sect in the 1972 Parliament.
Although the new Parliament still has many lawyers, they are fewer than in the previous one. 46 The occupational composition of the new deputies. reflects similar patterns to the overall Chamber, as shown in Figure 10.
Level of Education
The educational level of Lebanese deputies has continued its post-1943 rise. University graduates in the 1992 Parliament reached 77 per cent, compared with 68 per cent in the 1972 Chamber, as shown in Figure 11, thereby making the educational level of Lebanese deputies higher than that of the average Lebanese citizen.47 In this respect, an important change between the 1972 and 1992 chambers has been the decline in the percentage of deputies having only a secondary school education or less, from 32 per cent to 22 per cent. Table 17 shows the educational level of the 1992 deputies by sect. Greek Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Druze and Protestant have the highest percentage of university graduates, followed by the Alawis and Minorities. The relative distribution of the number of deputies with university and secondary school education is roughly equal among Maronites, Sunnis, and Shi'a. The institutions from which the deputies had graduated were both local and foreign. Many had received degrees from Saint Joseph University and the American University of Beirut, whereas others had graduated from universities in France and the United States. However, it was the first time that we find graduates of the Lebanese University, especially deputies 'from ideological parties and Islamist movements.
Neither electoral politics nor Lebanese politics generally have centred around political parties.48 In democratic countries, party-based electoral competition is predominant. In Lebanon, it is weak. There are few parties that can be compared to Western ones. Lebanese parties are mostly cliques or loose groupings that owe their existence to a leadership based on the strong and effective za'im, who is usually the founder of the party.49 During the war, most parties degenerated into militias or street gangs and engaged in acts of violence more against the communities they claimed to protect than against the declared enemy. This situation made party identity in postwar Lebanon a liability rather than an asset. The word 'party' (hizb) itself has today, in the minds of many Lebanese, become a pejorative word associated with the tribulations of the war. Party membership has not exceeded one-third of Parliament since 1964, as shown in Table 18.
While party representation decreased slightly compared with the previous parliament, change came in the form of party circulation as parties entered parliament for the first time, while others lost their representation, though the reasons for their departure differed. Table 19 shows the distribution of deputies from political parties by sect and constituency.
Most of the parties that did not return to the 1992 parliament were Christian-based ones that bad boycotted the election. Ideological parties constituted the majority of those that entered for the first time, guaranteeing their seats by filling the vacuum left by others. The two most prominent examples were the SSNP and the Wa'ad Party. These two, in addition to the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party, had support from Damascus. Other parties and political movements that were active during the war ceased to have any visible presence on the Lebanese political and electoral scene. Among these were the Sunni- based parties such as al-Murabitim in Beirut and, to a lesser extent, Harakat al-Tawhid al-Islamiyya in Tripoli. A Christian-based party, the Guardians of the Cedars, ceased to operate after Syrian troops entered Christian areas in 1990. Another, the Organisation of Communist Action, had been inactive since the PLO was driven out of Lebanon in 1982. Kamal Shatila, who lives in Paris and is leader of the Beirut-based Nasserite grouping, the Union of Working People's Forces, took part in the election but was unsuccessful. The Lebanese Communist Party, which was active politically and militarily during the war and had several candidates in various constituencies in the 1972 election, was unable to gain a seat in the 1992 parliament and even failed to gain one for its secretary-general George Hawi in the 1991 parliamentary appointments.
Expectations of a rise in party representation in the 1992 parliament - or at least a rise commensurate with the increase of deputies from 99 to 128 - were misplaced partly because of the Christian boycott and partly because parties' images have suffered and their popularity has declined, particularly among the youth who used to form the principal pool for party recruits. While party membership or support reached high levels in the first half of the 1970s, especially among university students, parties have since lost their broad influence.
No doubt the most prominent exception to the fortunes of political parties in the 1992 election was the rise of Islamist parties and organisations such as Hizballah, al-Jama'a al-Islamiyya, and the Islamic Charitable Works Association (al-Ahbash). While these groups had lacked an organised party presence ten or twenty years ago, they mobilised all their resources in 1992. Before the election, these groups had been active at the local level within their own constituencies, and in 1992 they invested all their political capital in the election. The performance of the fundamentalist parties reflected their political influence and electoral strength, at least under the current electoral law and the circumstances of the 1992 election. The Christian boycott benefited the Islamist candidates in Mount Lebanon and Beirut, but not necessarily in Ba'albak-Hermel, the South, and the North. The fortunes of Islamist candidates are like those of other political forces and parties, dependent on electoral alliances subject to changing political calculations. Finally, 1992 was the first time that Muslim deputies from political parties outnumbered Christian ones,50 as shown in Table 20 above.
The percentage of deputies from parties or groups that took part in the war or were led by a militia leader reached 24 per cent, as shown in Figure 12. This percentage would have been higher had parties with a Christian base, such as the Kata'eb and the National Liberals, participated in the elections. A quick look at the Islamist parties shows that Hizballah added four seats belonging to allies to the eight seats of its members, making it the largest organised parliamentary bloc, while Amal, Hizballah's principal rival, gained only four seats.
Parliamentary elections in Lebanon were once an awaited event characterised by a high degree of political mobilisation that involved people from all sects and regions, ages and social groups.51 This contrasted sharply with the 1992 elections in which the average citizen was uninterested. This indifference was especially marked among the youth (namely the 'war generation') who had reached the legal voting age during this period but had been unable to exercise this right because of the 20-year absence of elections.
The slight interest in the first election to be held in two decades, however, affected neither the electoral proposals nor incentives for candidates and voters. In prewar Lebanon, parliamentary elections had been largely a local affair involving narrow electoral issues, parochial concerns and short-term objectives. Rarely were elections tied to ideological or socio-economic issues or any well-defined electoral platform.52 Candidates or a list's electoral programme were usually presented in general terms, characterised by vague slogans citing lofty goals. These proposals were presented to the electorate only a short time prior to election day. This was still the case in 1992.
The rather exceptional politically and intellectually stormy atmosphere of the 1970s was absent in the 1990s. The 1992 campaign contained no debate on fundamental national issues such as implementation of the Ta'if Agreement, Lebanon's participation in the Arab-Israeli peace talks, economic problems, or the government's performance in general - all of which could have spurred critical discussion. Likewise, ideological proposals of the left and right were absent, having lost their importance in Lebanon and in other countries in the post cold-war period. Lebanon is sharing in 'the end of history'53 even if important issues that contain both ideological and religious dimensions are still on the platforms of radical Islamist parties. Such parties included the Shi'a-based Hizballah,54 and the two Sunni groups, al-Jama'a al-Islamiyya and al-, Ahbash. These groups entered the electoral contest like other political forces, setting ideology aside and making electoral moves with the utmost pragmatism and within the framework of Lebanese confessional politics.55
Procedural obstacles to discussing electoral issues plagued the 1992 elections. Of particular concern were the time periods between the passing of the electoral law, the setting of a date for the election and polling day. Even assuming that the country was mobilised for or against certain changes, there was insufficient time to hold general discussions about these matters, either through election campaigns or within a candidate's electoral programme.
The absence of electoral political agendas was another distinctive feature of the 1992 election. In 1992, electoral policy did not depend, as in previous elections, on calculating future political alliances for the postelection period. In prewar elections, these calculations had usually centred around competition for the three top political posts in the country (president, prime minister and speaker). In previous elections - especially when the new parliament was electing a new president - competition among candidates, whether within the same sect or in alliance with other sects, usually aimed at influencing the political alliances and interests of the new regime's supporters. In the parliamentary elections of 1947, 1957, 1964 and 1968, where candidates looked toward influencing the presidential elections of 1949, 1958, 1964 and 1970 respectively, this political dynamic occurred. In 1992, such considerations were absent. The electoral competition that produced the 1992 parliament - which will elect the next president - would no doubt have differed in form and substance under different political circumstances.
Incentives for Voters and Candidates
Contrary to expectations, the war did not change the motives and incentives of candidates or voters. The 20 and 30 year-olds who are usually politically active did not participate in the election and strongly supported the boycott, especially in Christian areas. Those relatively few who participated in the election did so for several reasons. Many hoped to influence government policies on services and personal interests. Candidates offered benefits to voters in exchange for loyalty.56 in Lebanese political jargon, this is known as the policy of 'services' (Khadamat) through influence (wasta), which implies the intervention by politicians in the government bureaucracy in order to facilitate the affairs of their followers.
Family and clannish ties also motivated people to participate both in the countryside and in the cities, though more prominently in the rural areas. Furthermore, voters expected political and other rewards if candidates supported by the government were elected. Voting was also encouraged by financial contributions, which varied from local projects with a positive return for the community, to vote- buying and bribery on election day. The influence of money differed among constituencies, notably in the Bekaa', the South and the North.57 Even religious or ideological motives for voting were mixed with other social considerations. Such mixed motives were evident, for instance, in the voting percentages for Hizballah in Bekaa'-Hermel, where the tribal fabric prevails, and for other Islamist movements in Akkar and Dinniyeh in the North. The Islamist groups also provided a wide range of 'services' in their regions of influence, which yielded positive results on election day. The 1992 election expressed most compellingly the effect of the 'services' factor on voting returns, for other effective factors were limited, especially where the boycott prevailed. In Northern Metn, especially in the constituency of Kisirwan-Ftouh, the 'services' factor had a decisive influence on encouraging people to vote despite the boycott.
Except for candidates from political parties and leading political figures (the so-called al-Aqtab), politicians such as local notables or independents ran to gain socio-political positions that provide patronclient benefits.58 Some also ran to gain an elected office traditionally held by a family member, resulting in occasionally violent competition among sons, brothers and cousins within a single family. In addition, some candidates expect political rewards for their membership of parliament. Attaining a governmental post or appearing in the media is easier for deputies than for politicians outside parliament. More important, a position in parliament can bring large financial returns. Furthermore, the results of the war itself, which extended the parliament's tenure from four to twenty years, was an additional incentive to run. Those politicians who had narrowly missed becoming deputies in 1972 would not accept a second missed opportunity in 1992, irrespective of the controversies and problems surrounding those elections.
Several candidates pursued political opportunities made possible by politicians who boycotted the elections, especially in some of Mount
Lebanon's constituencies. Many candidates ran to gain media exposure, though they had no chance of winning and were not qualified to enter one of the principal candidate lists. They did this to gain fame or the title 'former candidate for Parliament' which would raise their social standing and their credentials for a future bid to a local za'ama in the village, neighbourhood or family. Indeed, parliamentary elections in Lebanon, before and after the war, gave notable status to 'new faces' aspiring to emerge on the political scene and to old figures hoping to secure or renew their za'ama.
Change in the 1992 Elections: The Role of the Aqtab and their 'Electoral Machine'
While several features of prewar electoral politics in Lebanon remained in 1992, at least three changes were of some importance: the influence of the Aqtab (or leading zu'ama); the role of the 'electoral keys' (al-Mafateeh al-Intikhabiyya) and voting patterns with respect to electoral lists.
With the notable exception of Druze leader Walid Joumblatt, who maintained and even strengthened his leadership in the Druze community, most traditional leaders have seen their power decline in recent years. In 1992, they could not exercise the kind of influence they had in the prewar period. Although most leaders with secure support bases kept their power in their electoral constituencies, this influence began to diminish relative to the prewar period.
For some leaders the relative decline of power was caused by the death of the established leader (such as Arslan, Chamoun, Gemayel, Franjieh, Karami, Skaff), be it father, brother or cousin. By and large, successors command less authority (disputed and weakened by internal family feuds), have less experience and enjoy less communal legitimacy. For others, influence retreated or collapsed in the face of militia control during the war years because the militias targeted the local leader and were his main competition. In the 1992 election, some of these political families regained their positions, perhaps because people had had enough of militia rule and its excesses. Other political families were less successful. For example, former Speaker of Parliament Kamil al-As'ad's leadership declined before the war following the emergence of strong Shi'a rivals, notably Imam Musa al-Sadr. Traditional Shi'a leaders of the South and the Bekaa' saw their influence decline as internal and external forces radically and quickly transformed the political structure of the Shi'a community.59 Other leaders, however, faced stiff competition from new ascendant political forces, represented especially by the Islamist movements of the Bekaa' and the North (for example Husseini, Hamadeh and Mer'abi). In Christian groups, the large popular base of the movement led by General Michel Aoun, who boycotted the elections, exemplified the new political force that could compete or overlap with traditional leaders or other politicians.
Two other factors shed light on the declining influence of the Aqlab. The first has to do with the implications of an expanded electoral constituency, which increased the authority of the strong za'im over his local popular base yet put him in the difficult position of having to deal with a wider and more diverse body of voters. This diminished both his influence over these voters and his ability to reach them directly. The second and more important factor was that Damascus had access to most leaders active in Lebanon, in all the communities and electoral constituencies. The Syrian leadership's political clout, together with its intimate knowledge of Lebanon's political map, made Damascus the ultimate power broker within all communities.
In previous parliamentary elections subject to external influences, the focal point of electoral politics had a domestic basis. Whatever pressure or influence foreign parties exercised in the past (such as financial and political support, or visits by candidates to certain Arab countries), only certain communities and leaders, but not the entire political elite, were targeted. In prewar Lebanon, the impact of foreign influence was limited both in form and substance, affecting electoral results only in some constituencies. This foreign intervention in parliamentary and presidential elections, however, occurred mainly in the 1940s and 1950s; it declined perceptibly in the 1960s and 1970s. The presidential election of 1970 and the parliamentary election of 1972 attest to that reality. Such intervention relied on popular support usually associated with Arab nationalist politics and was related to the continuing debate and disagreements over Lebanon's identity and role in the region's politics. Today, it no longer relies on a popular base, as was the case, for example, during the Nasser era. Moreover, the Ta'if Agreement has settled Lebanon's national identity as an Arab country.
The decline in the influence of the Aqtab did not translate into the emergence of an alternative political force whose popular support and influence surpassed the traditional established leaders. With the exception of the Islamist movements, this phenomenon did not emerge in the 1992 elections. A political vacuum, therefore, exists and will no doubt be filled in the future through freer and more orderly elections.
The decline in the power of the traditional politicians also led to a decline in the role and influence of the 'electoral keys'. Their role had included participating in election campaigns, searching for likely supporters, offering 'services', distributing money and observing the electoral process. The 'electoral keys' belonged to a generation whose average age had risen since the previous elections. Those who were in their forties or fifties, the group with the most experience in such matters, have now reached their sixties or seventies; others have either died or are no longer active. This age factor limited the effect of the 'electoral keys' in the 1992 election. Moreover, the 20-year hiatus in electoral activity led to the interruption of an otherwise continuous contact between the 'electoral keys' and their political bosses. While the four-year period between elections allowed the connection to continue between the za'im and his 'electoral keys', the 20-year absence of elections either decreased the loyalty of the electoral key to his za'im, or led to a break in this relationship. In addition, there is the negative effect of the absence of a new generation of 'electoral keys' with the experience of their fathers or relatives who had played these roles.
A new generation of 'electoral keys' was also prevented from emerging by the militias' entry into local politics and their competition with local za'im over political leadership and the 'machinery' of local politics. Many of the youth had joined militias and assumed military functions with accompanying financial rewards and other forms of compensation. This occurred more in urban areas where local 'strongmen' (qabadayat) were active; they transferred their loyalty to the zu'ama of the militias.60 Moreover, the hasty decision to hold the election did not help maintain the weight of their role. This is because candidates were given insufficient time to prepare - for the election, undertake the necessary organisation and re- establish contact with the 'electoral keys', especially in large constituencies like the North and the South.
Finally, 1992 witnessed changes to the prewar voting model based on complete candidate lists. Voters resorted to choosing a mix of list candidates and independent candidates or others from a competing list. In electoral parlance, this is known as tashtib, which occurred in the 1992 election more than in any previous one. The reasons for this phenomenon include the decline in the influence of the major candidates, the formation of politically incompatible electoral lists, lack of coordination among members of a single list and the long period since the previous election. All this contributed to the decrease in voting for entire lists and to people in most constituencies resorting to tashtib.
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