Number of officially registered parliamentary election candidates still low

The number of registered candidates for the upcoming May parliamentary elections remains incredibly low in comparison to the 2018 elections, despite the fact that Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi announced the opening of registration for candidates on January 10.

Jawad Adra, founder and managing partner of Information International, said on Friday, February 18 via Twitter that the number of officially registered candidates remains capped at nine candidates in total. Only six men and three women are officially registered, despite the fact that the official window to register closes in less than a month.

A month prior to the registration deadline of the 2018 election period, the number of officially registered candidates was 161 candidates.

The majority of political parties announced their campaigns without officially registering, with some traditional political parties and civil society groups hosting preliminary internal elections prior to presenting an official list of candidates to the ministry.

Several names are currently circulating, but the lack of official registration has sparked fear in the hearts of citizens eagerly awaiting May 15 to enact change in the country after two long years of political, social and health crises. 

The reasons behind low registration

“The number is extremely low,” said Sarkis Abouzeid, a political analyst. “That’s because of the lack of excitement among political parties and possible candidates regarding the effectiveness of the elections.”

“There is also a fear surrounding the postponement or cancellation of these elections, one of the main reasons behind low registration numbers.”

Abouzeid added that the number of candidates is expected to increase as we near the end of the registration period.

Postponing the elections

Fears of postponing the parliamentary election have run high since the end of 2021, with the current political landscape in Lebanon making the delay a serious possibility. Meanwhile, traditional political parties— whether they be “March 8” or “March 14”—and even some oppositional forces continue to blame each other.

Experts and analysts found that this year’s parliamentary elections are being threatened by factors such as lifting the cost of registration from LBP 8 million to LBP 30 million, some skeptical that this a new strategy by political parties to thwart change.

“Postponing elections is a probable scenario that could also be caused by a security incident or the modification of certain laws, but not directly because of the number of candidates,” said Abouzeid.

Abouzeid mentioned the unlikely scenario where political parties collude to postpone the elections through ensuring the number needed to form a parliament is not met by the total number of registered candidates.

Independents under threat

Despite the hopes of civil society groups that change is indeed something within arm’s reach, their chances of winning a large and varied number of seats are not very probable because of alliances formed by traditional parties with massive followings across major districts.

Most civil society groups have similar programs—dismantling militias, rejecting the use of weapons and terrorism to gain political and judicial influence, protecting Lebanon’s sovereignty, amending the personal status law, and providing medicine and education to all. They remain divided despite that, which has both shaken voter trust in them and led to confusion among Lebanese citizens on who they will elect.

Stronger alliances and further cooperation between civil society groups will likely better their chances of being elected across different districts.

“Some regional and international forces are leaning towards postponing the elections because they had hoped to see the election of newer faces capable of enacting change and justice,” said Abouzeid. “But it looks like this is no longer certain.”