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Lebanon's Upcoming Parliamentary Elections Candidates: Hope or Illusion?

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Thursday 22 March 201806:23 pm
The proportional representation system which Lebanon is applying for the first time has spurred a host of young candidates to run for parliamentary elections, scheduled for May this year. For the first time in the country's history, more than 970 people applied to take part in the polls, most of whom are fresh first time runners. Do young candidates have something different to offer? And how are they different from mainstream parties and political figures? Raseef22 posed these two questions to eight under-40 candidates who are not members of political parties. They are from across the political and sectarian spectrum and are running in different constituencies, which to some extent reflects Lebanon's diversity. This is an attempt to allow these young candidates to express themselves without interference from Raseef22. Below are the candidates, starting with the youngest and ending with the oldest.

Fares Al-Halabi: I will Focus on Legislative Matters

I present myself as a politically independent young man, liberated from partisan frames and have had experience in campaigning since 2011; from the refusal of the parliament's tenure extension to calling for a scientific solution for the garbage crisis. I also support Lebanon's sovereignty and I am inclined towards those who are demanding a decent life by securing proper accommodation, medical services and education. I believe the forthcoming election poses a prelude to a real opposition against the traditional forces and parties that have dominated the political landscape since the early 1990s. Of course the proportional representation system has encouraged me to become a candidate. My candidacy is based on a technocrat background. I believe I will be superior to other parties' candidates in legislative work and monitoring the government, thanks to the nature of my work and the expertise I have gained. I have participated in drafting more than one bill and cooperated with parliamentary committees working on laws of administrative decentralization, transparency and oil. I also have substantial experience in good governance and elections. Moreover, I have worked abroad and took part in workshops and conferences that have allowed me and others to exchange experiences. I am not affiliated to a certain political current. I am a graduate of the Lebanese University and the official school. I know quite well the demands of the Lebanese youth as well as all social classes. I can transform these demands into bills. I believe in civil state and I will seek to represent my people in the third south constituency and all Lebanese people in the best way possible by observing their daily life. Fares Al-Halabi, born in 1992, is a political and human rights activist and is running for the Druze seat of the Marjayoun constituency.

Riad Tawk: Unlike Party Nominees, I Am Free

I grew up in a non-partisan and non-politicized family in the typical meaning, yet it was involved in the public domain through unusual social, cultural and political platforms. My grandfather was a Maronite priest who next to his religious position stood out for his social role. He acted like an elder who solves disagreements between people, especially amid the absence of the state. My father, next to his job as a school teacher in Bsharri, was the head the Gibran National Committee. This upbringing has made me aware of the society's causes and worries until I joined the struggle of the students through the political Lebanese Forces Party. Later, I became directly involved in politics after joining the March 14 Alliance. This was a turning point for me, before the alliance turned into power endeavors that have nothing to do with our daily life and concerns. What distinguishes me from traditional politicians is that I hail from the struggle of the popular class, which I am part of and I know its pain and ambitions inside out. I am not running individually, but mandated by youth groups who belong to my generation and we all share the same obsessions and dreams. We can together end the blind obedience to the leader. I am not like partisan candidates because I have free will and I do not have an authoritative or financial agenda. I also do not belong to political coalitions that do not share my views. My work in media and investigative journalism has enabled me to look into the weaknesses of the state and I have become convinced that without suggesting an emergency plan through the legislative authority, a total collapse will be inevitable. With the contribution of others I will try to control the losses. Riad Tawk, born in 1985, is a journalist and is running for the Maronite seat of the Bsharri District constituency.

Nayla Geagea: I Vow to Restore the Role of the MP

I was born and raised in Beirut, where I also received my education and kicked off my career. I grew up with a family that believes in the concept of the state, citizenship, free thinking and constructive criticism. My family has supported me in all my personal, professional and political endeavors. I refuse extremism, sectarianism, nepotism and clientelism. I believe in a state of institutions and law. I look forward to making the political practice a noble work that is based on the people's causes and aims at achieving the stability, security and prosperity of the society. I depend in my candidacy on the experience I have gained from my career and working with civil society organizations, syndicates and social campaigns while striving for human rights. I believe that progress on this path needs the presence of reformist political movements at constitutional institutions, especially the parliament since it is the base of the system in Lebanon. I vow to restore and activate the role of the MP who represents the people, upholds legislation, and is keen to serve the public interest by correcting and monitoring the performance and practices of the government and holding it accountable. The figures of a study that I will publish soon about the performance of the incumbent MPs have made me realize that they did not fulfill their legislative roles. After 12 years of struggle and work, I have become sure that any radical change or improvement on social, economic and humanitarian levels would definitely require the presence of competent individuals at institutions. Hard workers who are dedicated to find the best solutions from a clear legislative and political perspective and in a well thought out systematic manner. More importantly, they have to be prepared to be questioned during their tenure and through the democratic electoral process. Nayla Geagea, born in 1984, is a lawyer and a researcher who has studied international law and human rights. She is running through the list of Labaladi for the Shiite seat of Beirut's second constituency.

Marwan Maalouf: The Opportunity for a Change Is Real

My candidacy was not a snap decision. It came after being politically involved starting 2013 upon establishing the For the Republic group that aims to defend the principles and basis of the republic and democracy, which took a huge blow in Lebanon after the parliament had extended its tenure three times. Since then, we have been trying to face the political activities whose results are obvious; rampant corruption and tax increases that the citizens incur without any long-term economic vision. My goal today is clear and that what puts me in a different category from others. I have and will never compromise the principles and basis that I have featured in the public domain for, which prioritizes the citizen's needs. I take part in the parliamentary election with the intention of adding a new tool that, next to the street, will be used in the confrontation against political activities. This is the role I will try to play once I have got into parliament, without favoritism. The Lebanese people have a substantial chance for change, and that what motivates us to fight the electoral battle till the end. Marwan Maalouf, born in 1983, is a lecturer in the faculty of law at the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik. He is running for the Orthodox seat of the Koura District constituency.

Imad Bazzi: It Is Time to Create a Real Political Alternative

Even though I grow up with a political family, I did not take the same route. The circumstances I grew up in pushed me to hit the street and join the student mobilization in 1998 when I was relatively young. I remained involved in these activities as a school student, a university student, an activist, a blogger and an influencer on social media. The just causes in our Lebanese community are plenty, which urges you to be at the forefront. While the idea of being political involved had never crossed my mind, It has more recently become a lifestyle out of necessity. Today right before the parliamentary election and after all these years of struggle in the street, it is time to create a serious political alternative that is capable of doing what is more than chanting in protests and facing political authorities through amplifiers. We now need a political rhetoric that is relevant to the political crisis that we have been living amid a below-par performance of all politicians from across the Lebanese political spectrum. This rhetoric comes from the street and transfers the battle into parliamentary sessions. My candidacy today is all but the complete opposite of what the political class represents. I do not promise services or jobs in return for electoral votes, nor do I vow to serve interests and seal deals for the same purpose. I will not extort people. What I can promise is that I will put in a different performance at the parliament. I pledge not to vote for corrupt deals or unsustainable projects. I promise to be as I was in the street, incorruptible. I will dedicate my voice to disturb the darkness of the corruption. Imad Bazzi, born in 1982, is a political activist and a founding member of the For the Republic group. He is running for the Shiite seat of the constituency of Bint Jbeil District.

Nadine Itani: I am the Antithesis of the Typical Lebanese Politician

There is a typical image of a politician in Lebanon, and I am the antithesis of this image. I am not descended from a feudal family, I do not belong to a political party and I do not have unsourced cash in my pocket. I used to hear while I was a kid that "politics are for men" and "politics are for older people". I was raised with a modest family in Beirut. I am armed with strong faith, solid humanitarian and moral values, and will that saw me succeed professionally. My job, which is to manage international projects, has given me the experience to distribute resources and apply transparency to avoid squandering funds. It has also granted me the ability to bridge gaps between different groups and channel their efforts towards one target. We live in Lebanon in a circle of violence, everywhere; in the street, in our work places and in politics. It is in every aspect of life. This violence has become established, it is part of our daily life. The reason for this is a lack of governmental policies and projects to achieve economic, social and cultural prosperity and create a sustainable environment. Consequently, we should work on creating an embracing environment that nurtures the sense of belonging and citizenship for every Lebanese individual, an environment that helps build a cultural and social identity that is inclusive of all differences. Achieving that will enable the citizen to establish oneself, realize ambitions and be productive while living in a state of institutions and law. Nadine Itani, born in 1980, is a university lecturer and an expert in air transportation and human development in the aviation sector. She runs for the Sunni seat of Beirut's second constituency.

Marwan Tibi: I Am Running to keep the Hope for Change Alive

I am a Lebanese citizen who lived in Beirut during the war, and experienced life abroad after it was over. I have been waiting for so long for a radical change to the pattern that has been dominant for 40 years and resulted in nothing but violence, sabotage, corruption and negligence. All this was caused by the political institution consisting of the Lebanese parties. These parties back and forth fall out and with each other and make peace by reaching suspicious agreements that put the security and well-being of the nation in danger. We are all aware of the sensitivity of the geostrategic files in our region. We have also paid a dear price for the plans and conspiracies that throughout history were put forward by these parties and their leaders who have had connections with overseas powers, whether enemies or allies. I am a Lebanese citizen who lives like most male and female citizens, including the backers of the ruling parties. We face difficulties in our daily life in all of the capital's districts -- traffic chaos, electricity outages, numerous high bills for substandard services and "adventures" at civil services. I announce my candidacy to keep alive the hope for the inevitable change, which will be achieved by restoring the role of the state and isolating its institutions from the corruption that rules Lebanon. Our political vision depends on enforcing the constitution to ensure the citizens' rights and duties. I will work through a comprehensive program on setting out an action plan that includes laws aiming to develop the state's civil services by applying digital technologies. I will also seek to amend the trade law to acknowledge the one person company system and support the concept of the nascent trading initiative. Marwan Tibi, born in 1979, studied political science and business management. He is running for the Sunni seat of Beirut's second constituency.

Mark Daou: New Options Are Available

I think this is a transitional period in the history of Lebanon. In politics, 8 and 14 March comprise a milestone. Almost the same time this year, we are witnessing the retirement of personalities that have dominated the political class, replaced with new faces from the post civil war generation. The financial institution is also witnessing a transition due debts and the administration's inability to continue under the pressure of international changes, modernity and development. Hence, leaping to another area is not speculation, it is a reality spurred by social, economic and political mobilization that we have all been witnessing. This is the opportunity for change. The monopoly that controls the state, its institutions, economy and security must end. We believe that the largest economic sectors are dominated by the state, which is controlled by sectarian parties, corruption and deals. We believe this is where the weight of the labor force should be centralized, as the public sector operates in favor of the political forces and companies adopting their agendas. We think that securing our southern and northern borders have been assigned to an armed group that is not affiliated to state authorities. Amid a pressuring economic crisis, there are 360,000 Lebanese people who work in the Gulf to bring home the bacon and support Lebanon's national economy. Our economic and political independence is questioned, and so is our national security. The political, social and economic monopoly has to end, and thus we suggest other alternatives through serious opposition that would serve the citizens' interests. Based on the above, the "One of Us" campaign was launched to introduce a serious civil alternative in the parliamentary polls. It aims at reactivating the role of the Lebanese citizen in this election as a political participant and not just a voter. Mark Daou, born in 1979, is a political activist, environmentalist, businessman and lecturer at the American University in Beirut. He runs for the Druze seat of the constituency of Aley District.
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