A shift in the political landscape

By Ibrahim Jouhari

Former PM Saad Hariri announced the suspension of his personal and political party’s participation in Lebanese political life in an emotional address. The former PM explained that despite his many efforts to compromise, some are unwilling to let the country move forward. He stressed that this negative trend has been amplified by a growing Iranian hegemony, in a tumultuous regional dynamic, with the international community’s lack of decisiveness.

A lot of ink will be spilled, and time spent to analyze the consequences of this decision. The repercussions will be widespread, and it will have a long-lasting effect on the Sunni community and its political aspirations, and the general Lebanese political landscape. Although it is still too early to draw an accurate framework of these changes, two significant consequences can already be identified.

No elections!

The first direct consequence is that the chances that the Lebanese legislative elections will take place on May 15th, 2022, have just considerably fallen. Although, these chances were not high in the first place, mainly because no traditional political party is eager to spend money and political capital to preserve the status quo in such a complicated internal and regional situation. Except maybe the Lebanese forces, which feel they might grow their support and become the most prominent Christian parliamentary bloc overcoming Gebran Bassil’s FPM.

Moreover, the logistic capabilities and preparation of the state to run the election are severally falling behind in such a harsh economic and financial situation. For example, until this moment, the Electoral Supervisory Commissions resigned members have not yet been replaced, or its budget allocated. Other preparations have not been finalized yet, with time running short. For example, the electoral centers allocations, proper materials procurement, appointment of civil servants -numbering 10,000 and more- to the various locations and disbursing their financial compensation, and the dissemination and training of the necessary security personnel and materials)

Therefore, Hariri’s withdrawal from political life is another blow to holding the election. And no, international pressure will not be enough to ensure that the elections are held on time. We have seen firsthand the failure of the full international pressure, represented by the two visits of president macron in 2020, to force the Lebanese political elites to form an independent government.

Lower Sunni turnout

The second consequence, if by a miracle, elections do occur despite the above, Sunni turnout will be significantly lower than the already anemic 2018 rates. Most FM core supporters, comprising around 15 to 20% of the entire community, will be much less likely to participate. This trend can be further amplified if the former Prime Ministers group, in addition to the local Sunni leaders like Jisr in Tripoli, Fatfat, Allouch in Tripoli, Jarrah in the Bekaa, follows suit and does not participate.

Additionally, if this suspension is transformed into a communitarian call for boycott, especially if supported by the Mufti, then the turnout will be further affected and pushed downwards, in a scenario that brings back to mind the 1992 Christian boycott and its catastrophic consequences.

In order to counter such a negative trend, it is necessary to build up a national Sunni electoral framework, to reorganize and unit the different local leaders and groups under a semi-organized framework, to share electoral resources and tactics, to counter any significant gains that Hezbollah or other forces might be able to make in the Sunni street. Additionally, such an organization might reinvigorate the Sunni street and lessen the downward turnout trend!

A silver lining

On the other hand, many other Sunni figures and groups, especially from the alternative parties that grew after the 17th of October popular movement, now have a golden opportunity to pick up the pieces and prove themselves capable of filling part of the void left by Future Movement. However, the window of opportunity is closing fast, and these groups need to finalize a lot of organizational efforts and aggregation to prove that they are a viable alternative and start attracting part of the orphaned FM Sunni supporters.

Finally, it is high time to create a new sovereign national Sunni framework to draw up a set of minimal national tenets and principles. Such a framework will help unit a majority of Sunni street to counter Hezbollah growing clout and influence and maintain a minimum balance of power to strengthen Sunni moderation and openness. Otherwise, Lebanon will slowly fall into a Venezuelan model of a failed pariah state, under the control of Iran, separated from its Arab surrounding and western friends.


Since the start of the severe Lebanese crisis, more than two years ago, practically nothing has been done. No reforms to speak of, no capital control, no aid measures, nothing!

The situation keeps getting worse, illustrated by an ever-falling exchange rate, while the central bank issues ad hoc decisions with no consultations, preparations, or declared plan. Small depositors are being bled dry by a universal haircut approaching 70 to 80%, prices keep rising, and the cost of most services have increased by 300 to 400%, fuel is now ten times more expensive than a year ago, same for electricity, while mobile and internet prices are about to follow suit.

So why? Why is this ‘deliberate depression[1]’ still ongoing while the government, the Za’aim, and their political parties sit by idly blaming each other? The real question should be: why not? Indeed, any economic, political, or financial reforms will directly harm the political elites of Lebanon. It could even be said that the Lebanese political elites are not sitting by idly. On the contrary, they might be actively helping the fall. The World Bank’s use of the term deliberate was not frivolous!

Political and economic reforms

Politically, the current elites will lose much of their influence and power base if any reforms are implemented. First, the Lebanese elites have a lot of similarities with authoritarian regimes, and the moment they start implementing reforms, it signals the beginning of their end. It will show their weakness, fallibility, and ‘sins’. This applies the most to Lebanon’s more authoritarian and populist parties, primarily Hezbollah and FPM. Thus, they would prefer to watch the country burn rather than admit that they made mistakes and accept the subsequent loss of popularity.

Second, the power of the traditional pollical parties is based on an intricate clientelist system, using patronage, and public appointments in a bloated and inefficient civil service (the electricity and communications sectors chief among these), to sustain and increase their popularity and power base.  Any reforms to these institutions would signal the end of the old system and the unnumbered benefits it bestowed upon this political class.

Thus, no politicians have any incentive to implement much-needed reforms, specifically not at this juncture. The elections have been set to occur on 15th May 2022, and no politicians will support reforms five months before a popularity contest! Especially when most of these reforms are considered very unpopular.

Moreover, these reforms are required by the international community and the IMF before any serious aid and help is disbursed. The reforms range from appointing a regulatory authority for the electricity sector and raising tariffs, slashing the number of public sector workers, increasing VAT, capital control and unifying the exchange rates, and reforming the public sector and the balance of payments.

Even the appointment of a new Prime Minister and the formation of a new government took almost 12 months. Then the government was paralyzed a few weeks after it was formed. In the end, these political elites will not sign off or champion any serious reform initiatives unless they are forced to.  

Financial reforms

Similarly, several urgent financial reforms should be implemented, like the capital control law, identifying losses in the banking and financial system, and bringing some sanity to the foreign exchange market, which has been distorted by a deliberate multiplication of rates.

Here too, there is no incentive for the authorities to enact reforms. Every moment that passes is a blessing in disguise for the financial and banking system. Every dollar, or shall I say Lollar[2] that is withdrawn at a steep haircut of 70 or 80%, abiding an arbitrary rate of 8,000 LPB a dollar set by the central bank, is reducing the gaping hole of losses that is facing the banking sector.[3] Meanwhile, the banks have lowered their overhead costs, closed branches, and dismissed thousands of employees. It is not farfetched to imagine that if the current situation continues for two or three years, most banks would be able to reduce their losses significantly, and their shareholders will not have to lose any of their capital or inject additional funds.

Thus, neither the political nor the financial elites have any real incentive to enact any reforms unless they are forced to. So who can force them?

International pressure

Many Lebanese have placed their hopes and wishes on the ability of the international community, especially the French, to pressure the politicians to implement the reform agenda. Unfortunately, even that last resort seems inefficient and unable to shake the iron attachment of the Lebanese elites to their political, economic, and financial interests.

Indeed, last year after the 4th August Beirut port explosion, the pressure was at its paroxysm. The entire world was focused on the tiny country, and President Macron used France’s full political weight supported by the international community to push the Lebanese politicians to make concessions and form a new government by technocrats and experts tasked only with implementing reforms. President Marcon came to Beirut twice, threatening the politicians with sanctions and worse. Nothing happened!

No government was formed, and the country’s political elites continued subverting any reform initiative and blaming each other’s for the deteriorating situation. Thus, once more, international pressure will avail to little. The country will continue its slow descent into hell while the political class prepares to pick up the pieces once the dust settles. Meanwhile, If elections happen, they will still use considerable means to rebuild their legitimacy and win a plurality of votes of their sects. By then, the regional situation would be clearer, and a new deal might be struck to preserve their interests and implement limited superficial reforms in exchange for international help.

A ray of hope!

However, the last two years have uncovered a critical chink in the unbreakable armor of the Lebanese political elites: targeted popular movements. Especially those that paralyzed the country, blocking streets and stopping the politicians and the government from slogging on, as if nothing has changed, in a ‘business as usual’ attitude!

Nothing brought the political elites to their knees, pushing them to violently lash out as when the ‘Thawra’ or the popular uprising of 17th October 2019 blocked roads, demonstrated, and overtook public offices and politicians’ homes. Even the hackling of politicians in restaurants was effective. Indeed, these interventions showed the Lebanese people, the international community, and even the politicians themselves how weak and ineffective they are. It also showed that the old system cannot continue and must change! These movements forced to change and reforms, and that was key! And they also showed that an alternative existed.

In the end, the question should not be why nothing has been done and why the situation keeps getting worse. The question should be when will the people fill the streets again. In the immortal words of the great Samir Kassir, “go back to the streets, back to clarity!”

[1] The ‘deliberate depression’ was the title of the World bank fall 2020 report on Lebanon

[2] Credit is due to Mr. Dan Azzi for coming up with the term ‘LOLLARS’ defining the dollars stuck in the banks, that the Lebanese are unable to withdraw as bank notes.

[3] latest official figures puts it at 69 billion dollars, which is probably less than the full loss, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/lebanon-agrees-losses-financial-sector-68-69-bln-deputy-pm-says-2021-12-14/

The By-elections that was not!

The citizens of Tyr’s district, in South Lebanon were supposed to vote in a by-election this Sunday, the 15th of September. Indeed, Nawaf Moussaoui Hezbollah’s MP resigned or was asked to resign by his superiors, after making one mistake too many. Two months ago, he attacked late President Bashir Gemyael, in an overtly sectarian manner, forcing Hezbollah to apologize and censor their MP, forbidding him from making any public comments for a month.

Mr. Moussaoui’s troubles did not end there. In a very telling incident, he allegedly attacked and shot at his daughter former husband. In Lebanon, family affairs are ruled by the religious courts of the 18 different sects forming the Lebanese mosaic. Under the rules of some of these sects, it is very hard for a woman to divorce her husband, and alimony and children custody are usually very unfavorable to women. Moussavi like most of Hezbollah MPs are some of the staunchest defendants of these archaic rules, yet when his daughter well being was on the line, he fought tooth and nail for her rights!

In the 2018 parliamentary elections, the Tyr-Zahrani district had one of the largest number of registered voters, while having the fewest number of lists, with only two competing. The district is overwhelmingly Shiite ( 80% plus), who mostly support Hezbollah and Amal (speaker Berri’s party). Indeed, 150,264 voted out of 311,953 registered, reaching a 48.1% turnout in the 2018 parliamentary elections. For a more detailed view of the district’s composition please check my pre-2018 election analysis, here.


Hezbollah and Amal fielded a united list, and only one opposing list challenged them. This list was headed by the scion of an old feudal family Mr. Riad Assad, but it was unable to reach the necessary threshold to win any seats. Consequently, Hezbollah and Amal allied list won all seven seats, a surprising feat under a proportional system.

The current by-election is only for one seat, following the electoral law stipulations, the elections was to be held using a majoritarian system in the smaller district of Tyr. Indeed, according to the 2017 law, as long as the number of open seats is under three, the elections will be held under a majoritarian system, in the smaller district.

In this by-election, three opponents ran, Hasan Ezzeddine Hezbollah’s candidate, and two independents. One of them dropped during the allotted time, while the other, Mrs. Bushra Khalil refused and vowed to stay in the race. Although the period to withdraw ended on the September 4th, but Mrs. Khalil agreed, a week later, to throw in the towel after Hezbollah General Sectary Hassan Nassrallah asked her. Despite the irregularity, the Council of Ministers accepted her withdrawal and announced the victory of Hezbollah’s candidate by default, as he was the only running candidate. Thus, the balance of parliament didn’t budge, and in a future article i will discuss that in more details!


Finally, elections are costly affairs, and in these times of austerity I understand the decision to accept the irregular withdrawal of the candidate. However, laws should always be followed, even when it is inconvenient, for nothing erodes the rule of law more, than when the state itself ignores its own laws!

Analysis of Tripoli’s By-election results!

The election was uneventful, with expected results. Yet a lot of interesting insight could have been gleamed by studying the raw data. Unfortunately, the results (both the final tabulation and the raw data) has been, once more, published by the Ministry of Interior in a PDF format. So, it will take efforts to convert, reorganizing and then cross link the data to start getting trend lines and inference(similarly to what was done in the DLP).

First, the law. As mentioned in my previous article on the by-elections, was majoritarian, as it is not feasible to run a proportional election for one seat. The electoral law stipulates that any by-elections with less than three seats in one district shall be held under a majoritarian system in small (Qaza) district.


Second, turnout. As expected was significantly lower. However, the surprise was how much lower it was. Just before the elections, I wrote expecting a 50% drop in turnout, based on historic trends. I projected a fall in turnout from around 39% in the 2018 elections to 20%. Shockingly, the final turnout numbers of the Tripoli by election was 13.65%. This is significantly lower, and it indicates deep seated popular resentment and apathy. The political forces in Tripoli should take heed!

There was a surprising increase in invalid ballots, from 3.96% in 2018 to 8% in 2019!!

Third, there was an understandable uptick in white ballots, as people were unsatisfied with the candidates, and with a broad heterogeneous alliance. However, there was a surprising increase in invalid ballots, from 3.96% in 2018 to 8% in the 2019 by-elections!! Indeed, in 2018 Tripoli’s invalid numbers were the highest in Lebanon, reaching 3.96%. This increase was mainly caused by the use, for the first time in the history of Lebanon, of a proportional system, instead of a majoritarian one. However, in 2019 the by-elections were held under a majoritarian system, nevertheless the invalid numbers doubled!  I believe that this is caused by the switch from system to system and the lack of awareness and information. This is an issue that needs addressing. I do not think such a continued switching between systems is advisable. It is confusing the population and increasing invalids ballot numbers! 

Fourth, in my previous analysis, I also indicated that the large alliance encompassing most of the political parties of the city (Future Movement -FM-, Mikati, General Rifi, …) that supported Dima Jamali (part of the FM), should get at least 20,000 votes. MP Dima Jamali won back her seat, that she lost following a decision by the constitutional council for irregularities, with 19,387.  Indeed, FM supported by all the different political forces in Tripoli were able to achieve a pyrrhic victory, while spending the minimum amount of required effort, time, and treasure! Nevertheless, PM Saad Hariri had to spend a significant political capital to forge the alliance that allowed his candidate to win. He reconciled with General Rifi, who spearheaded the opposition against PM Hariri in 2016 municipal elections, and he reaffirmed his partnership with Mikati. Yet, a victory is a victory, and PM Hariri and his FM were once more able to reaffirm their influence in Tripoli and enjoy the support of a sizable part of its citizens, while conserving his parliamentary group of 20 MPs.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_0663-1024x672.jpg

On the other hand, out of all the opponents running against FM candidate’s Dima Jamali, none achieved outstanding results. Hezbollah’s allies such as Karameh didn’t field a candidate. Meanwhile, as per their usual modus-operandi, civil societies’ parties splintered and divided their votes, further discouraging their supporters, lowering their turnout, and increasing their apathy. Still, Mr. Yehyah Mawloud, as the front runner for civil society was able to get 3,295 up from a personal score of 909 and a list score of 2,274 in 2018. Mr. Omar Sayyed, another civil society candidate, running for the first time, reached 2,240. What these civil society political players are unable or unwilling to understand is that if they plan to have any significant impact on the Lebanese political arena and build a solid and growing popular support around their movement, they must consider each election as a matter of life and death for the movement as a whole. Elections are not a popularity or an ego contest. Every time they splinter and divide their forces, their popular support further erodes and people revert back to the sectarian traditional parties.

Musbah Ahdab, the former MP, who was a young rising star of March 14, in 2009, was able to assert his small but solid and eager group of supporters, ensuring that in the next elections he should be taken seriously, indicating that he would provide an added value to any coalition he joins. Indeed, while most political forces supporters and voters’ numbers plummeted in the by-election, Mr. Ahdab was able to increase his personal score from 908 votes in 2018 to 2,590 (it is important to note that in 2018 he was part of a list that got a cumulative 3,307. Yet his ability to come close to that number running alone in a by elections, with a much lower turnout rate is a significant result!)

Finally, Mr. Nizar Zakka was a candidate, he is a Lebanese Analysis of Tripoli’s By-election results!American citizen that has been incarcerated in Iran for the past few years. He candidacy was a laudable effort to raise the issue of his imprisonment and push the Lebanese government to take more actions. He received 503 votes. Fortunately, he was released from prison a few months later.

*info-graphic used courtesy of LCPS, a great Lebanese think tank known for its rigorous unbiased research, publications, and beautiful info-graphics! 

The last word on Tripoli: It’s a turnout game!

PM Saad Hariri’s Future Movement (FM), former PM Najeeb Mikati’s Azem Movement, Safadi, and even General Rifi have joined a grand alliance and are supporting MP Dima Jamali, whose election was nulled by the constitutional Council. Meanwhile, the contender, Mr. Taha Naji and his list headed by Mr. Faisal Karameh who filed the motion against MP Jamali’s election, has refused to participate, claiming that he should have won the seat by default once MP Jamali’s election was deemed irregular.

The power distribution in the 2018 general elections:

voting percentage

Mathematically, the current alliance between Future Movement, Mikati, Rifi should receive 65,000 votes based on the 2018 elections. Meanwhile, the main contender Mr. Mosbah Ahdab should get around 3,000.

UntitledThese numbers are misleading because the turnout this Sunday will be much, much lower than in 2018. Indeed, in the 2018 general elections 94,047 voted in Tripoli, out of 237,330. This amounts to a 39.6% turnout rate. I project that at best, around 50,000 voters will participate this Sunday, and probably less. This is equal to a 20% turnout, plus or minus.

The much lower projected turnout will be due to:

1- turnout has been historically lower in special and by elections in Lebanon. The only available data point is a comparison between 2009 general elections and 2010 special elections in the Minieh Dinnieh district.

In 2009, the 14 March candidates won with an average of 38,000 votes. Meanwhile in the 2010 by elections 14 March candidate won with around 20,000 votes. That is almost a 50% drop in turnout.

(unfortunately, due to the lack of open data, additional data points, electoral statistics and numbers are hard to come by, especially electronically and in a machine-readable format. This is why we have worked on the Data Liberation Project with NDI.

2- usually, when a political party is not directly involved in the elections, its effort to energize the supporters and push people to vote is much lower compared to when it has a candidate running. Thus, Mikati, Safadi, and Rifi will not fully deploy their electoral campaigns or spend the necessary funds and efforts to increase turnout and enthusiasm among their supporters.

3- In general, voters are much less likely to participate in low competition elections with no strong candidates running against each other’s.

4- There is also 1,559 out of county voters, who will not participate in this election by voting in Lebanese embassies all over the world. (the law only allows them to vote, if they come to Lebanon in person.)

Therefore, if we apply a 20% general turnout to the alliance of Future Movement, Mikati, Rifi Mrs. Dima Jamali should receive 32,000 votes. I still believe that this is still a high number, and hard to get.

On the other side, we have Mr. Mohsbah Ahdab, an ex-MP that was a major component of 14 March coalition, in addition to several civil society candidates. Mr. Ahdab received 3,300 in 2018, anything above that will constitute a good showing. Especially if he reaches 5,000 (10,000 is even possible, but hard, if Karameh and other dissatisfied parties rally around him). Meanwhile, the civil society candidates, seems not to have learned anything from 2018. They fielded five candidates, diluting their support, and depressing the enthusiasm of anti-establishment voters. They are not expected to receive more than a few hundred votes.

In conclusion, Future Movement candidate is almost assured of victory, however this election will be a test for FM ability to energize and push their supporter to vote, and will show if Mikati, Safadi, and Rifi’s support was real or just words.

The threshold will be around 20,000 votes for Jamali, any result below would be disappointing. Meanwhile, anything above 25,000 would constitute a great showing and a renewed vote of confidence for Future Movement and PM Hariri popularity in Tripoli.

PS: watch turnout during the day, and compare it to this partial turnout list, courtesy my obsession with archiving election data. Although, these numbers were posted by the Minister of Interior during election day on May 6, 2018. But the numbers are not very accurate, use them more as an indicative trend line, rather than in absolute terms.

turnout tripoli

A late winter surprise!

In a surprising development, nine months after May 2018 parliamentary elections, the Constitutional Council decided to annul one of the results of the North 2 district, removing MP Dima Jamali (one of only six female MPs in Lebanon) from office, and calling for new elections! The elections should be held within two months, on majoritarian basis, in the Tripoli sub district!

They say timing is everything! Indeed had this decision made public two weeks ago, just before the formation of the government, it would have definitely upended the whole process and the government would not have been formed. At this time, the effects of this decision are minimized, the political balance has been set, and the government has been formed, and won an overwhelming vote of confidence. However, such a decision could be used by anyone who want to further challenge the power base of the prime minister.

Using the formidable tool of open data, made available by the Data Liberation Project, with cooperation with NDI, I analyzed the numbers of Tripoli and applied a preliminary analysis to the upcoming electoral battle. All the following numbers are only for the Tripoli sub district, excluding Minniyeh and Donniyeh (as per the decision of the Constitutional council for holding a runoff election within two months based on a majoritarian law only in Tripoli)

Turnout: turnout was fairly low in Tripoli, with only 30% significantly less than the national average of 49%. Turnout will be critical in this upcoming election. People are generally less motivated and enthusiastic in run off elections, and it will surely be lower than the 30%. If any party could build momentum and conserve a good showing, surprises might be in store!

Political distribution of voters:

voting percentage

number of votes

Future Movement and Mikati are the clear favorites! The rest are divided among several opposing forces, with Karameh at 16,396 almost half of Mikati. Ashraf Rifi, who won the 2016 municipal elections come at a very distant fourth with almost eight thousands.The rest of the political factions can barely muster another 8,000. Thus it will be a game of alliances, with Mikati playing the role of king maker, whoever he sides with ( either FM or Karameh) would win.However, a Mikati FM alliance seems more plausible, as the two are already allied in the government and politically close. On paper, such an alliance should give their candidate a large majority of almost 57,000 votes.

It is important to note that this will be an open election, so if Mikati decides to put forth his own candidate, all bets will be off and the smaller parties role and importance will exponentially grow ! Nevertheless, this scenario seems far fetched, and Mikati would probably choose to stick with PM Hariri and Future Movement.

Finally, a word to the wise, in 2016 municipal elections a large Mikati and FM alliance was formed, yet Ashraf Rifi was able to win the election. Thus, it is imperative for these political parties to energize their base, and run an efficient and smart electoral campaign! Especially if this turns into a three way fight! Assuming of course that the Council’s decision is respected and the elections are held on time!

The US Midterm Elections!

Usually US mid term elections are a routine affair, where the people cast a vote supporting or censoring the current president and his policies.

This year the elections are crucial, to the US, and dare I say, to the world. Trump won the presidency riding a wave of authoritarian popularism, that spread to Eastern Europe and reached Brazil. Using xenophobia, latent racism, and the economy changing from an industrial focus to a modern digital and open one, these autocrats have reached power and started dismantling the Democratic Institutions that allowed them in.

This election is the Gettysburg of this age. Does the hightide of authoritarian popularism wane at the shores of Lady liberty, or does it engulf the world in another age of extremisim, similar to the 1930’s

In a few hours we will see, it all rests on turnout, on the willgness of young people and minorities to vote, en mass!

Go vote!

The Data Liberation Project

A few days after the May 6, 2018 parliamentary, the Ministry of Interior (MOI) published the results. The initial results were in a PDF format, with limited information. They lacked a breakdown of participation or voting per district. As an avid analyst with an interest in data and patterns recognition, that was very frustrating.

PDF from MOI
Initial results in PDF, from MOI

Fortunately, the MOI released the full results a week later. However, the MOI also published these results in a static PDF format, grouped by the preliminary counting committees, severely limiting any possible analysis and cross linkage.

Consequently, I started working on possible methods to convert and reorganize the data to make it easily accessible, and then cross linking it to gender and sect, to allow a deeper and richer analysis. So I took my home district Saida as a case study and went to work.

The process was divided into three phases:

  • First step, converting the static PDFs into machine readable Excel
  • Reorganizing the data by neighborhood
  • Adding the Sect and gender labels of each ballot bureau, by using the MOI data base.

reorganization by neighboorhood
Reorganization by Neighborhood

It took me two weeks to finalize the Saida district (one of the smallest in Lebanon), allowing me to use the newly organized data to write a deep analysis of the district’s results, learning about the turnout and voting patterns by gender and sect. Moreover, the data opened up another level of analysis, such as the linkage between women turnout and voting, and the presence of strong women candidates.

adding the sect and gender column
Adding the Sect and Gender Columns

However, the amount of time and efforts the first case study took, convinced me that this should be a larger team effort. I contacted several institutions to propose possible cooperation. The National Democratic Institute (NDI) expressed interest and they offered to support the project, and this is how the Data Liberation Project (DLP) started. After the initial proposal was accepted, I hired several young and enthusiastic experts, organized the workflow, planned the different phases, and prepared the tasks. The Project was launched and we slowly started the conversion and the reorganization of the elections results.

Two months later, the data was finalized, and after a long and assiduous editing and corroborating effort, we submitted the finished project, to the satisfaction of NDI and team.

Consequently, it is my honor and privilege to freely offer the full results of the Lebanese 2018 parliamentary elections, cross checked with gender and sects, for the general public, students, and experts.

The results are availed upon request, via a google drive link, by contacting me directly or by using this email: dlp.lebanon@gmail.com

Finally, I would like to thank the whole NDI team, for their unwavering support, professionalism, and help in completing such an important project, that aim to provide free and open data, considering how hard it is to get unbiased, objective, and solid data in Lebanon. It goes without saying that the project would not have been possible without the young men and women who worked tirelessly for its success, especially Fouad Saoudi and Lana Skaffi, among many others.

A detailed analysis of SAIDA’s 2018 electoral result!

Rafik Hariri’s legacy can be traced back to this once small city, on the Mediterranean, with its plentiful orange orchards and long history. He was born there, and his siblings and distant family are still living in the city. Rafik Hariri helped rebuild and renovated Saida’s infrastructure after the 1982 Israeli invasion, building roads, school, and various projects.

Thus, the two Sunni MPs of the city have always had a symbolic importance. In 2009, for the first time since the formation of the Future Movement (FM) party,  it was able to win both seats. Unfortunately, in 2018 FM failed to repeat this feat and their old adversary Oussam Saad took the second seat in the place of PM Fouad Sinioura.

It is worthy to note that in 2009 Mrs. Hariri won with 25,500 votes to Oussam Saad’s 13,500. Indeed, MP Hariri received almost 64% of the total vote, with a record setting 68% participation, the highest in Lebanon. In 2018 Future Movement numbers fell in Saida to 15,308 against 10,255 for Oussam’s, with only a 54% participation!


So what happened? In this deep analysis of the results, I will try to find patterns in the numbers, and draw some conclusions. I will tackle this in two sections: turnout and voting patterns! This analysis has been made possible with the help of NDI, with whom i have been working on a data liberation project, to transform the Ministry of Interior official detailed PDF results into machine readable excel, and add sect and gender information. To learn more about this project please use this link.


First, turnout:


It is clear that turnout fell significantly, especially among Sunni! Based on the a preliminary analysis of the numbers (link) this trend among Sunni’s seems widespread to most districts with Sunni majorities (Beirut 2, Tripoli, …) Indeed, during the last 9 years 10,000 new voters registered in Saida, with a majority of Sunni, however less people voted in absolute term in 2018 than in 2009

Even more significant, there are more female than male voters in Lebanon. Almost 53% (according to UNDP). Additionally, in relative numbers, women turnout is higher than men’s, yet in Saida, Sunni women turnout was lower than men, at odds with Shia and Christian women!




Women turnout, as previously mentioned, was lower than men’s. Even though the head of FM list in the district was a women, but that did not raise the turnout.

Although, Sunni women voted less than men did, but they supported MP Bahiaa at a higher percentage than men. (48.37% of women, voted for MP Hariri, as opposed to 44.90% of men)

This are very important data points, and once the rest of the districts are analyzed, it will be possible to draw correlation between several variables. For example is women turnout affected by the presence of  strong women candidates, and do women vote more for women candidates?


Second: voting patterns:

I believe that Saida’s voting patterns might hold true for most of the other districts, and i will try to show that in future analysis. Indeed, Shia voters voted in mass and with a very high adherence to party instructions. Meanwhile Sunni voters were lethargic, and their vote was split and dispersed among many lists (see Beirut II as a perfect example), severely lowering its effectiveness. On the other hand, the Christian voters were more fired up, and more disciplined, but divided into different parties (FPM, LF, …) this sometimes played against them, in Jezzine for example.

Thus in Saida, Sunni turnout fell heavily, and from a 64% support to FM in 2009, to just 46% in 2018. On the other hand, shiaa voters in Saida adhered strongly to their party’s instruction and voted, cross confessionally, to their sunni ally at a very high 73% rate. This trend of shia voters, is especially salient in the Southern and Baalbek districts reaching high 80 or even 90% adherence. In Jezzine too this was even more evident, shia voted at a dizzying 92% for their Christian ally Azzar.




Lastly, preparation, training, and information, pay and pay very well. Saida suffered of one of the highest rates of invalidated ballots, at 3.14%. Meanwhile, in Jezzine it was half of that, at 1.55%. With the Ministry of Interior being busy with the overall organization of the election, it fell to the parties and NGOs to train their people and their supporters on how to vote and how to help voters during the process.

Thus, certain parties (Lebanese Forces come to mind) were able to prepare their electoral machine, train their people and observers, inform their electors, and they reaped the benefits, by doubling the number of their MPs. For example, their regions of Bcharreh had the lowest rate of invalid ballots at 1.71%. Others did not, and the invalid ballots rate in their strongholds was fairly high, robbing them of precious seats. For more analysis on the invalid ballots and turnout, check this link.

Finally, it is worthy to note that despite rampant sectarianism and the ugly inflammatory rhetoric that preceded the elections, there was small but significant cross-sectarian voting. 12% of Saida’s shia voted forMrs. Bahiaa Hariri and 34% of Christians, and she received 1,100 Christian votes for Jezzine. I firmly believe that political parties, focusing on issues politics (waste management’s, electricity, and environment) with a clear and organized agenda can make significant headway in the Lebanese political arena.

This leads us to the a very important question on why the civil society wave started in 2016 with Beirut Madinati receiving more than 35% of the vote in Beirut’s municipal elections, did not make a significant breakthrough in the parliamentary elections, winning only one seat. A question that I will deal with in depth in the next several articles.

Details of the mistakes

Unfortunately, as i mentioned in my analysis of the turnout numbers, there are two mistakes that i was able to catch in the official numbers.

the first one:

it concerns Zahleh’s fifth counting committee, where a ballot box usually holding 600 registered persons plus or minus (as inferred by most ballot boxes in this sub-committee) had 315,617 as the number of registered. so to solve this issue i assumed that it was 617.

mistake one

The second is similar to the first, but in Tripoli. Here too, a ballot that was supposed to hold in 600’s was put in for 62,581. again i corrected it as 625.

mistake two