Despite his absence, Hariri’s stronghold stays faithful
Welcome to The New Arab's coverage of Lebanon's General Election 2022 held on May 15, 2022. Follow live updates, results, analyses, and opinion in our special hub here.
Sunni voters appeared to toe former PM and Sunni strongman Saad Hariri's party line on election day, as many abstained from voting in protest of his absence while others voted for his former associates.
Statistics released by the Ministry of Interior by the time poll closed showed low turnout in majority Sunni areas like Tripoli and Saida, where turnout was 23 and 32 per cent, respectively. The previous elections in 2018 had an overall turnout of 50 per cent.
Pictures of his supporters having a pool party in Tareeq al-Jadeedah, a Hariri stronghold, circulated on social media as young men bragged they would not vote if he did not appear as a candidate.
Voters coming out of polling booths in Tareeq al-Jadeedah told The New Arab that while Hariri's absence was felt, they voted "in his spirit."
"It was hard for us to choose someone new. I chose someone who has the same spirit as Hariri, who used to be aligned with him," Ahmad Chahbeh, a barber, said. He added that Hariri's resignation "impacted the whole world" as he was "the greatest of them all."
Another voter said that she "will always love Saad Hariri" and that in this election she voted for a list she perceived as following in his legacy.
"I voted for the person who always helps me because I have a husband who is sick. We need someone to help us, and he is the one who always opens the door for me," Mounah, a 49-year old resident of Tareeq al-Jadeedah, told The New Arab.
Analysts say that Saad Hariri's move to boycott the election was largely a protest of him being squeezed out of Lebanese politics.
"By withdrawing and boycotting, Hariri made [the election] about Sunnis and their fate in post-Hariri Lebanon. Hariri didn't want it that way, underestimating the ambitions of fellow Sunnis who are trying to fill the big gap left by his absence," Sami Moubayed, a political analyst and historian who focuses on Syria, Lebanon and Iraq told The New Arab.
"So far, neither Fouad Siniora's Beirut Tuwajeh has succeeded, nor has Bahaa Hariri's team," Moubayed added.
Still, despite the weight of Hariri's absence weighing on Sunday's election, not all Sunni voters were still held in his thrall.
"My priority in this election is to see new faces. I am voting for Tagheer Beirut [Beirut for Change], because they are the only people that are outside the establishment," Aamer Joohadah, told The New Arab.
"In [the revolution] we went down to the streets against everyone. And everyone means everyone. Just because we're Sunni doesn't mean we have to stick to Saad Hariri," Joohadah said.