Lebanese General Parliamentary Elections, 2018

Armenian Deputies

George H. Aynilian PhD, Illinois,USA, 19 August 2018

This article is a supplement to “Armenian Deputies in Lebanon (1929-2009)". A Historical Perspective which appeared in Keghart 2012. The background and historical information about Armenian political parties, and my personal observations and experiences will not be repeated in this article. I plan to focus only on this election with some comments and conclusions.

(L-R) Paula Yacoubian, Eddy Demirjian, Alexander Matossian,
Hagop Pakradounian, Jean Talouzian, Hagop Terzian

General parliamentary elections were held on May 6, 2018 after originally being scheduled for 2013 and postponed in 2014 and 2017 due to political reasons and various Middle East conflicts. The electoral law finally agreed in 2017 provided a proportional representation system for the first time in Lebanese history. This election was a major successful undertaking considering the conflict in Syria and the diverse demographics in Lebanon which was reflective of Syria’s own diversity. The Lebanese political parties acted with wisdom, caution and prudence to prevent the spillover of the Syrian conflict into Lebanon. The lessons of the 1975-1990 civil war were fresh in their minds and they all put forth stupendous efforts to prevent any repeat of that conflict.

Armenian Deputies

George H. Aynilian PhD, Illinois,USA, 19 August 2018

This article is a supplement to “Armenian Deputies in Lebanon (1929-2009)". A Historical Perspective which appeared in Keghart 2012. The background and historical information about Armenian political parties, and my personal observations and experiences will not be repeated in this article. I plan to focus only on this election with some comments and conclusions.

(L-R) Paula Yacoubian, Eddy Demirjian, Alexander Matossian,
Hagop Pakradounian, Jean Talouzian, Hagop Terzian

General parliamentary elections were held on May 6, 2018 after originally being scheduled for 2013 and postponed in 2014 and 2017 due to political reasons and various Middle East conflicts. The electoral law finally agreed in 2017 provided a proportional representation system for the first time in Lebanese history. This election was a major successful undertaking considering the conflict in Syria and the diverse demographics in Lebanon which was reflective of Syria’s own diversity. The Lebanese political parties acted with wisdom, caution and prudence to prevent the spillover of the Syrian conflict into Lebanon. The lessons of the 1975-1990 civil war were fresh in their minds and they all put forth stupendous efforts to prevent any repeat of that conflict.

The new electoral law instituted proportional representation for the first time in Lebanese history in 15 multi-member constituencies. Candidates were obliged to join lists. This adopted law resulting after a year of negotiations replaced the majoritarian principle that governed the country’s elections since independence. Rather than facing off in a winner –takes-all contest, parties competing in a given district were awarded seats according to the proportion of the vote that they won. In theory this system cleared the way for independent candidates or candidates belonging to small parties outside the traditional political class to gain a foothold. The new threshold for winning a seat was substantially lower than in previous elections creating opportunities for reformers for better governance with little political experience to enter parliament. This new system as reflected in the results kept power sharing among traditional representatives of Lebanon’s religious communities but in addition facilitated the emergence( albeit a small fraction) of nonsectarian political parties , a core demand of Lebanon’s increasingly activist society.

There were 15 electoral districts and 11 religious sects for the election of 128 deputies,  including; Sunni(27) ,Shia(27), Druze(8), Alawite(2), Maronite(34), Greek Orthodox(14), Greek Catholic(8), Armenian Orthodox(5), Armenian Catholic (1), Evangelical(1) and Minorities(1). In total 64 Muslim and 64 Christian deputies were to be elected. The registered voters numbered 3, 885, 514. Thus Armenians were given 6/128 seats (about 5%). The Armenian Evangelical sect in spite of all the educational, religious, philanthropic organizations was part of the Evangelical sect given 1 seat, but unfortunately no Armenian candidate participated in competing for that seat according to the literature I reviewed.

Armenian candidates participated in three districts: Beirut I (East Beirut), for three Armenian Orthodox seats and 1 Armenian Catholic seat; Mount Lebanon II (Metn) for 1 Armenian Orthodox seat; Bekaa (Zahle) for 1 Armenian Orthodox seat. As far as Armenian Orthodox seats 10 candidates competed for 3 seats in Beirut I, 3 candidates competed for 1 seat in Metn and 4 candidates competed for 1 seat in Bekaa. As far as Armenian Catholic seat, 5 candidates competed for 1 seat in Beirut I. Thus 22 Armenian candidates (17 Orthodox and 5 Catholic) competed for a total of 6 seats. This was unprecedented and was a result of the new electoral law, emergence of Armenian candidates aligning themselves with non-Armenian parties running against traditional Armenian parties and finally emergence of women candidates a terrific development after many years of male dominance of Armenian politics.

Electoral Districts

Beirut I (Armenian Candidates)

There were 5 lists in this district. The ARF and Henchaks aligned with Free Patriotic Movement in a list called “Strong Beirut” with a total of 4 candidates. The Ramgavars aligned with The Lebanese Forces and Kataeb in a list called “Beirut I” with two candidates. Two independent candidates also joined that list.  “Kulluna Watani” a new alliance whose platform was alternative to corrupted power in Lebanese politics, had 4 candidates.  Another alliance “We are Beirut” fielded 2 candidates while “Loyalty to Beirut” a small alliance fielded 1 candidate.

In conclusion, 15 Armenian candidates participated for 4 seats; 3 ARF, 2 Ramgavars, 1 Henchak (total 6 candidates), and 9 candidates outside the 3 main Armenian political parties. This was unprecedented and a new development.

 

List                         Arm. Orthodox (3 seats) and Arm. Catholic (1 seat)

Strong Beirut            Hagop Terzian (ARF)
                                 Serge Gukhadarian (ARF)   
                                 Alexander Matossian (ARF)
                                 Sebouh Kalbakian (Henchak)

Beirut I                     Carole Babikian
                                 Jean Talouzian
                                 Avedis Dakessian(RAG)
                                 Elena Cloxian (RAG)
 

Kulluna Watani        Paula Yacoubian (Sabaa)
                                Yorgui Teyrouz (Li Baladi)
                                Laury Haytaian (Li Baladi)
                                Leon Talfazian (Li Baladi)

We are Beirut         Sebouh Mekhjian
                               Serj Toursakisssian

Loyalty to Beirut    Antoune Kalaijian

Results: Hagop Terzian and Alexander Matossian , both representing ARF and Paula Yacoubian representing Sabaa won the 3 Armenian Orthodox seats. Jean Talouzian independent but allied with Lebanese Forces and Kataeb list, won the Armenian Catholic seat.

ARF had 2/3, Henchak 0/1, Ramagavar 0/2, other parties, 2/9 elected deputies respectively. It’s very interesting to note that the three main parties fielded 6 candidates for 4 seats.  They captured 2 seats.  Candidates outside the three main parties fielded 9 candidates for 4 seats and captured also 2 seats.  Paula Yacoubian won as a Sabaa (No. 7 in Arabic) member. Therefore 3 Armenian men and 1 Armenian woman captured the 4 seats in Beirut I. Armenians should be proud of having their first woman after almost 90 years, breaking the glass ceiling and entering parliament .

Sabaa and Li Baladi are grass root organizations that were formed a few years back and include members from both Christian and Muslim sects. They are opposed to the sectarian, feudal and tribal systems and traditional parties. They claim that they are concentrating their attention on solving the day to day challenges faced by Lebanese as far as cost of living, medical services, educational costs, housing, environment, corruption and other social issues. They represent a new social activism movement. Paula Yacoubian a young popular TV reporter and journalist along with several other independent Armenians have joined one of these movements.

Bekaa I (Zahle) Armenian Candidates

There were 5 lists in the District. Four Armenians ran for the one seat assigned for Armenian Orthodox sect. None of them were members of Armenian parties.  The list “Zahle for All” included an alliance of Free Patriotic Movement, Future Movement, ARF and other independents. ARF supported the candidacy of Marie-Jeanne Bilezikjian, a women’s right activist.”Zahle is our Cause” list was an alliance of Lebanese Forces and Kataeb.  Boghos Kordian ran on that list. The third list was “Popular Block” headed by Skaff family. George Boushikian ran as a Popular Block member. A fourth list “Zahle Options and Decisions” included Hezbollah and Syrian Social National Party candidates. Eddie Demirjian an independent ran on that list.

List                                                   Armenian Orthodox (1 seat)

Zahle for All                                    Marie-Jeanne Bilezikjian
Zahle is Our Cause                          Boghos Kordian
Popular Block                                  George Bushikian
Zahle Options and Decisions           Eddie Demirjian
Kulluna Watani                                No candidate

The winner was Eddie Demirjian (77 votes!) another deputy not affiliated with main Armenian parties.  Marie-Jeanne Bilezikjian lost even though she had received 3851 votes. This is an anomaly due to the electoral system. Armenians missed a great opportunity to have a second woman in the parliament.  (I hope some of the readers in Beirut can comment on this particular outcome).

Mount Lebanon II (Metn) Armenian Candidates

In Metn 5 lists were registered, three  Armenians ran on 3 lists for 1 Armenian Orthodox seat; Yeghisheh Andonian, an independent, ran with Kataeb and National Liberal Party under the list “Pulse Metn”. Hagop Pakradounian (Pakradouni) the ARF candidate ran with Free Patriotic Movement party under the list “Strong Metn”.

Finally, Ara Koyounian from Ramgavar party ran with Lebanese Forces, under the list “Metn Heart of Lebanon”.

List                                     Armenian Orthodox (1 seat)

Pure Metn                            Yeghisheh Andonian
Strong Metn                         Hagop Pakradounian (ARF)
Metn Heart of Lebanon        Ara Koyounian (RAG)

Hagop Pakradounian (ARF) won handily and kept his 2009 seat.

Concluding Remarks

  1. Five of six deputies who were elected are newcomers. Hagop Terzian(ARF), Alexander Matossian (ARF), Paula Yacoubian (Sabaa), Jean Talouzian , Eddie Demirjian.  Hagop Pakradounian (ARF), the only incumbent from 2009 parliament who was reelected.
  2. ARF took the lion’s share of deputies; 3 deputies, the Henchak and Ramgavar parties ended up with no deputies, while the other 3 seats were taken by 2 independents and 1 affiliated with Sabaa party.
  3. Of the 22 candidates, 8 candidates represented the three main Armenian parties; ARF 4, Ramgavar 3, Henchak 1. On the other hand 14/22 candidates represented either non-Armenian parties or ran as independents.  This may be due to the new electoral law that encourages candidates not affiliated with major parties to run and/or a trend among Armenian candidates to align with grassroots parties that have major focus on reform, transparency, the economic wellbeing of the average citizen and not accepting the status quo of current affairs. These new parties also have more secular outlooks rather than sectarian and religious.
  4. Finally Armenians have a woman representative; Paula Yacoubian who broke the glass ceiling. We hope in the future that number will be augmented, since it is high time that Armenians encourage women to participate in public service. It is high time that main Armenian parties include women on their lists. Armenian women represented 5/22 (23%) of the candidates running for the parliament. In Zahle, an Armenian woman lost in spite of receiving 50 times more votes than his male Armenian opponent.  As far as the whole country, unfortunately only 6 women were elected in the 128 seat parliament (about 5%) and 80 women could not be elected. A record number of women ran for office, 86 women a staggering surge compared to just 12 in 2009. But the number of elected women candidates increased by only 2 (from 4 to 6) in the 2018 parliament.
  5. The Armenian community remains strong and vigilant in Lebanon with its educational institutions, churches, free press, cultural and sporting activities. It’s a dynamic and successful community in keeping the Armenian heritage, culture and family at the same time playing major roles in advancing the interests of the Lebanese society and Lebanon as a whole where Armenians have lived 3-4 generations after The Genocide.  However, the community has had many challenges due to civil wars, regional conflicts, emigration, economic hardships and employment opportunities for young adults. The future is in the hands of the educational, political and religious leaderships who have to guide the community into sustainable and stable environment. We all congratulate the 6 deputies and wish them major success in improving and solving the many challenges facing the community
1 comment
  1. Recent Election in Lebanon
    George

    Your article about the latest parliamentary election in Lebanon was very informative and it was obvious that it was well researched.  I enjoyed reading it and became much informed of the new election law that did away with the winner, even with the slimmest margin, take it all previous system.

    What was also interesting to me that the Alawites are now a recognized sect in Lebanon. That was not the case when I was there. 

    Thank you

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