BEIRUT — More than 500 candidates, including 69 women, have applied to run in Lebanon’s May 15 parliamentary elections, with the country’s Interior Ministry expecting the number to rise dramatically before the deadline at midnight on Tuesday.
A total of 517 candidates had applied by late Friday.
The 2018 election had 976 candidates, including 113 women, but the number fell after registration closed. As a result, 597 candidates, including 86 women, prevailed on 77 lists in Lebanese constituencies.
The prospects for this year’s elections will become clearer after the completion of the April 4 electoral lists. Voters will head to the polls on May 15, with candidates vying for the country’s 128 parliamentary seats in 15 constituencies.
Some of the major parties will officially announce their candidates on Monday.
Speaker Nabih Berri will announce his nominees, including current MPs and defendants in the Beirut port blast hearings, at a press conference.
The Free Patriotic Movement announced its candidates at its seventh annual conference on Sunday. In a speech, party leader Gebran Bassil attacked his political opponents, including the March 14 Alliance and the Citizens’ Movement, which he called “a false revolution”, adding that “they will fall”.
Bassil defended Hezbollah, saying its partnership with the FPM in the electoral lists to be formed later was “not a program partnership, but a process of voice integration.”
Hezbollah is trying to ensure that the FPM gets into parliament with as few casualties as possible. Hezbollah officials have said, “Whoever fails the Amal movement and Hezbollah is a partner in the largest regional and international assault aimed at destroying Hezbollah protecting Lebanon.”
MP Wael Abou Faour of the Progressive Socialist Party said that “the project of the March 8 Alliance (including Hezbollah and their allies) in the elections amounts to winning two-thirds of the members of parliament and thus their spoiled candidate as to enforce President of the Republic (referring to MP Gebran Bassil), to control constitutional changes, to change the system and to turn the problem of de facto weapons into a constitutional reality, which will not be the will of the Lebanese.”
The Lebanese Armed Forces Party will launch its campaign on Monday to coincide with the anniversary of the Cedar Revolution on March 14.
The candidates representing the Sunni sect in Lebanon are expected to include a range of independent figures, even those loyal to the late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, after the Future Movement urged its members to quit the party if they choose to would like to run for Parliament.
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati is likely to resign from the elections. Three FM MPs – Rola Tabsh, Mohammed Hajjar and Asim Araji – said they would do the same and reiterated their loyalty to Saad Hariri.
Six groups of civil activists launched a joint project on Saturday to unite progressive opposition forces in an electoral front. The rally paved the way for the drafting of a joint working paper that will announce the candidates early next week.
However, the general election continues to be threatened by Lebanon’s deepening economic crisis and the prospect of the country sliding further towards collapse in the two months leading up to the May 15 election.
President Michel Aoun was quoted as saying that “the money for the elections is not yet available”.
Opinion polls conducted almost weekly by several private institutions have revealed a decline in voter enthusiasm for the candidates and a rise in political ambivalence and resentment towards the ruling authorities.