Student elections echo the country’s woes
Posted by worriedlebanese on 05/11/2009
I followed quite closely this year’s student elections back at my Alma Mater. The picture wasn’t a pretty one. If you took the time to read the Daily Star, l’Orient-Le Jour, An-Nahar, As-Safir, lebanese-forces.org and Tayyar.org, it might just kill your hopes for a better future. Here are the highlights:
- the university changed the electoral law without consulting students, without any debate. The proportionate system was chosen because it was “the most democratic voting system”. The university didn’t even explain how it came to this conclusion, echoing the recent general consensus that was imposed in Lebanon that the proportionate system is the only democratic voting system.
- the student groups decided to choose politically neutral names for their lists in a bid to depoliticise the battle. This bid didn’t go any farther than this terminological camouflage (that everyone found satisfactory). Most candidates didn’t hide their political affiliations and much of the discussions within the student body were about political affiliations.
- The battle was extremely polarised. “Independents” didn’t have a common platform and many question their real independence. The dominant lists replicated the national divide between “opposition” (that is extremely heterogeneous and mostly in government) and “majority” (that is a loose and divided coalition of rival or autonomous parties and patronage networks), here called “B+” and “réforme” (or “University2010”).
- The campaign were quite costly and relied on explicit or implicit commercial and political sponsoring. The University did nothing to regulate the financing of the campaign. Even if there were no cases of vote buying, patronage networks were quite active. You had posters, T-shirt distributions, professional logos for the campaign… To try to mobilise the students, one camp proposed manakish and crepes, while the other proposed popcorn. On the following day, each brought loudspeakers and played electronic music.
- Are you interested in programs? Well, each list had prepared one. But the students didn’t seem much interested in it. Most of those who I talked to had no clue about what each list was campaigning for (those who did were actually part of the core team supporting a list). The programs were a formal exercice with very little meaning.
- Each camp had its own interpretation of the results. Samir Geagea, the leader of Lebanese Forces celebrated the victory of “March XIV” with a “bye bye ya 7alween” while Aoun claimed that his party won the popular vote and most of the big faculties.