Lebanon’s Winning Women: Six Females Voted into Parliament
النساء في الجدد في المجلس النيابي والتأثير الرمزي والمحدود لأصوات المنتشرين
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 08/18
Lebanon’s new parliament will include six female lawmakers across the country, up from just four in the 2009-era parliament with several fresh faces. The landmark May 6 election saw a record 86 women run, with virtually every party — except Hizbullah — putting forth female candidates.
Here is an overview of the women who scored a spot in Lebanon’s 128-member legislative body.
The high-profile television journalist landed a seat in the capital Beirut after running on a list of outsiders known as Kulluna Watani. “This is the real change, the real opposition,” she told the AFP news agency during her campaign. The 42-year-old daughter of an Armenian genocide survivor long hosted a show on Future TV, the channel owned by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, but she stepped down to run for office. Yacoubian is the only candidate from outside the traditional political class to have won a seat.
Lawyer Roula Tabsh is also a first-time victor in the capital, but she ran on Hariri’s al-Mustaqbal Movement list which was otherwise dealt a blow at the polls.
Tabsh pledged to advocate for women’s rights in parliament, including making sure children with Lebanese mothers and foreign fathers can get Lebanese nationality.
The wins by Tabsh and Yacoubian will usher in the highest female representation in parliament ever for Beirut.
The sister of slain ex-premier Rafik Hariri and aunt of current prime minister Saad Hariri kept the seat she has held in the southern district of Sidon.
At 65, she has served as a member of parliament four times and as education minister, and was awarded a Legion d’Honneur by former French president Jacques Chirac in 2003. She is a member of the prime minister’s inner circle.
Her life was turned upside down by her brother’s assassination in 2005. She stopped wearing skirt-suits and make-up and began covering her hair with a traditional white headscarf.
The 50-year-old politician from the northern district of Bsharri will return for another term in parliament. She is married to Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea, and is credited with steering the party for 11 years while he was detained during Syria’s military occupation of Lebanon, until his release in 2005.
The tall, slender woman is seen as a hardliner within the movement.
A pathologist by training, 57-year-old Ezzeddine has served as minister for administrative reform — but her rise to parliament is unprecedented.
It will be her first term as a legislator, but also the first time Lebanon’s port city of Tyre has a female representative. Ezzeddine hails from the AMAL Movement, a strong Shiite party that is allied to Hizbullah and has never put forward a female candidate. Ezzeddine is divorced and is a mother of two daughters.
Jamali is a professor of business management and freshman parliamentarian, who will serve in Lebanon’s second city Tripoli after running on al-Mustaqbal Movement’s list. Her father was the mayor of the coastal metropolis in the north, but it has never before been represented by a woman. “We have a historic opportunity to bring new faces to Tripoli,” she said in a campaign video before the vote.
Women at the vote
Among those that did not win seats are Joumana Haddad, a writer and activist who ran in Beirut, and an all-women’s list from the conservative northern area of Akkar.
But Lebanese women flooded the polling stations on Sunday, both as voters and party delegates. Females made up 50.8 percent of registered voters in 2018, according to the United Nations.
Outsiders in Lebanon Vote Make a Small Win Look Big
Associated Press/Naharnet/May 08/18
They won just one seat in Lebanon’s 128-seat national assembly, but they celebrated like they’d won 20. A grassroots movement of activists, journalists and other political newcomers said any presence in parliament was a landmark victory for its campaign against patronage in an era when politics is run as a family business. Candidates and volunteers gathered at a Beirut shisha cafe erupted in cheers Sunday night when the first positive forecasts came in for the largest outsider campaign in recent memory — waged under the banner, “We are all Patriots,” or “Kollouna Watani” in Arabic. “I’m proud of all the volunteers and candidates who said ‘no’ to the face of the corrupt political class and to this vacuous political play we’ve been stuck in for years,” said Joumana Haddad, a novelist who campaigned on a platform of reforming Lebanon’s personal status laws that govern everything from marriage, divorce, inheritance and child custody. Initial results on Sunday had shown that Haddad and another candidate, journalist Paula Yacoubian, were projected to take two seats for Watani. But official results announced late Monday showed Haddad had been edged out by another candidate and Watani won just one seat. Haddad’s supporters, gathered outside the Interior Ministry before the official results were released, protested what they maintained were clear signs of fraud to deny her victory. “The people in power didn’t like this result, so they proceeded with rigging the result at the last minute,” said Lucien Bourjeily, a writer and director who ran as a Watani candidate. It had been a long struggle for those running under the Watani banner, many involved in anti-establishment politics for years before Sunday’s vote.
They helped organize the protests that filled the capital in 2015 when a waste management scandal left trash uncollected in the streets for weeks. Environmental activists have accused politicians at the highest levels of arranging lucrative deals to bury trash without treatment or recycling. “We learned we can succeed when we persevere,” said Bourjeily, who helped organize the 2015 protests.
Watani’s single-seat victory came in a district of Beirut, breaking a monopoly traditionally held by established political parties in the capital. On Sunday, the activists allowed themselves an evening of relief, laughing and wiping away tears as they watched the projected results on TV.
“We changed the way people talk about politics in this country,” said Michelle Keserwany, half of a sister musical duo that has satirized Lebanon’s moribund political scene through their snappy lyrics and expertly produced videos. “Candidates are now publishing programs to run on. It may sound obvious in other countries, but it’s these things we are demanding here,” Keserwany said.
In Lebanon, politics is about jobs and kickbacks more than it is about platforms. Since the end of Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war political bosses have held onto their seats through networks of patronage that supported the middle class with steady work that kept families above the poverty line but without avenues for self-advancement. In exchange, communities gave their patrons their votes and looked the other way as infrastructure crumbled and services decayed. Their staying power was reinforced by a winner-takes-all voting system that worked against independents. Politicians bequeathed their seats to their sons and, less commonly, wives and daughters. To date many of the country’s top politicians are the warlords or heirs of the warlords of the civil war three decades ago. That law was replaced this year with one awarding seats by proportional representation, but other complications worked to keep outsiders from taking a larger share. Watani had fielded 66 candidates across nine of the country’s 15 districts. The new national assembly largely reproduces the one it replaces; leading politicians looked set to stay in their posts, while many newcomers hailed from decades-old family dynasties in Lebanese politics. To Watani volunteers, the struggle for political reform is much larger than one election. They say they will run again in the next nation