Lebanon: a shifting balance of power

By Ali Hammoud

A new correlation of forces

The political power refused to recognize the new correlation of forces produced by the glorious uprising of October 17 in Lebanon. Rather, it continued with the same economic policies serving the interests of the oligarchy and the bankers, which led to the impoverishment of 80% of Lebanon’s workers and brought the collapsed country to the brink of famine.

The political power refused to admit its responsibility for the economic collapse and refused to bring to trial those responsible for the Beirut port explosion. It also refused to support reform plans that would stop the squandering of public funds and restart the economy and orient it towards production.

The ruling political establishment in Lebanon believed that if the revolutionary momentum in the street receded, it could perpetuate the system and preserve its profits and interests. Therefore, its preparations for the parliamentary elections were filled with speeches emphasizing previous policies, and statistics from paid companies showing fabricated numbers about the expected results of the parliamentary elections, to thwart any attempt to form lists capable of confronting the ruling system and the sectarianism of the political system.

For months we have been accompanying the preparations for the parliamentary elections, and we have been gathering the opinion of the people and the level of anger and rejection of the rules of the traditional power. With the proximity of the election and the announcement of the authority’s regulations, the marriage between the poles of the financial, sectarian and militia system became clear.

In the Hezbollah-controlled constituencies, Hezbollah allied itself with the most powerful corrupt and bank owners and gave places on its lists for parliamentary immunity to characters such as candidate Marwan Khair al-Din.

As for regulations on the other side of the system, such as the Lebanese Forces and Kataeb, these were financed by one of the leaders of the banking mafia in Lebanon, Antoun Sehnaoui, and by the head of the Banks Association, Salim Sfeir, and supported by Saudi money and the U.S. administration. U.S. State Department official for Middle East affairs David Schenker’s acknowledgment of the large amount of donated funds confirmed this.

It is clear that this battle had a political and class orientation in the face of the alliance of the oligarchy, and that society and the working class were mobilizing spontaneously to wage it; Therefore, it was necessary for us to withdraw from the option of calling for a boycott and be part of the elections, contributing to support independent lists presenting a project of change in line with our proposals (such as the lists of “citizens in one country”) at the very least.

We do not imagine that the wins would exceed 5 or 6 seats, in the best case scenario. However, the results of the expatriate polls, evidenced by their rejection of the rules of power, encouraged many to get involved and vote for the proposals for change, especially since the next parliament will face a big test, as it will have to deal harshly with the system’s attempts to pass the distorted Capital Control Law in Parliament. It should also cancel the banking secrecy law and present a law to restructure the banks that is supposed to be passed in accordance with the financial and economic recovery plan, and the role of the government and the central bank and the transparency of their numbers.

The results of the May 15 elections were historic, as we were able, with simple and limited means, to confront the money lords and the armed sectarian militias. We also toppled the spokesperson of the Alliance of Banks in Parliament, Elie Ferzli, and the Director General of the Resources Bank, Marwan Khair El-Din, and many others who are key in the ruling structure. The number of seats won  doubled the estimations.

But the most important thing is:

First: To demonstrate that the volume of objection and popular rejection of the parties in the system is very large.

Second: There is a willingness of the working class and broad popular groups to participate in the political battle, and this is a translation of the accumulation of changes in society.

Third: To confirm the possibility of breaking the power in its strongholds and to open a new loophole in the system that could lead to an increase in the number of conquests at the political level in the future.

The ruling establishment has not yet been able to understand what happened and how these large numbers were obtained and this non-compliance occurred. In his first statement, the head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc, Muhammad Raad, issued a clear threat to all Lebanese, saying that whoever refuses to cooperate with them and be part of a joint government will lead the country into the abyss and civil war. This explicit threat from the most powerful party in the country illustrates the magnitude of the blow received by the ruling system, as the balances of the current parliament have not given a majority to any of the regime’s parties, and the possibility of a government and presidential vacuum is very high.

Lebanon has entered a new phase in which the voices of those calling for political change will once again be raised and in which the street movement will gradually regain its momentum. The upward course of the confrontation continues towards further accumulation and strengthening for this political system, without giving opportunities to militias, sectarians and oligarchies to drag the country into war.