Why Political Parties Are Terrified of Forming Lists
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Even if you haven’t been following the elections fuss in Lebanon recently, you probably know that old enemies are suddenly on the same coalition running for the elections together. You’ll also notice that political parties in Lebanon have thrown out their last iota of dignity and credibility, by outright saying their benefit-based, district-specific alliances are just meant to help them win, and have no relation whatsoever for their stated principles and positions.

Now, we’re used to the flip-flopping of Lebanese politicians with absolutely no shame and unfortunately no accountability. However, I think we can all agree that this current situation is even too much for Lebanon’s political parties. This is due to the disastrous new electoral law, and shows how shortsighted the Lebanese establishment was, and how they’re scrambling like headless chickens trying to do damage control and keep their claws on the seats they’ve been occupying with no public mandate for the past decade.

Lists and Preferential Votes

To better explain this, I will use A and B for established political parties, and X for independents.

The new law means that you can no longer pick and choose between campaigns, but have to stick to one list as-is. Let’s assume the list is for 10 seats in parliament.

The winning candidates are chosen over two steps, the first is how many seats each list gets. The second, is which candidates from each list will make the cut. Usually, this is something the list-makers decide, putting candidates by order and awarding the seats the list won to the candidates based on the order they’re put in. In Lebanon, the candidates from the list are chosen based on the preferential vote. Preferential vote is an optional “extra” on every ballot, if you choose a list to vote for, you can select your favorite candidate on it as well. Let’s assume List X gets 2 seats out of the 10. The 2 candidates from list X will be the ones that got the most preferential votes.

Now, for the insightful bunch among you, the dangers are already obvious here for political parties. Let’s assume A and B decide to form a list together. A has slightly more potential voters than B in that district. Political party logic here means that partisans will award their preferential vote for a candidate their party instructs them to choose. So, list A partisans will give A candidates preferential votes, and B partisans will do the same for B candidates. Let’s assume the AB list if made up of 5 A and 5 B candidates. If the list gets 50% of the vote, they get 5 seats out of 10. Those 5 seats will probably go to the party with more voters in that district, so A might get all 5 seats, even though B was on that same list, and their partisans votes helped secure those 5 seats of list AB. The definition of piggy-back riding.

This is why political parties keep stalling, and have lowered their standards even lower than usual and admitted they’ll do anything to win, regardless if it is against what they stand for or not.

This Might Be Used Against Them

Where most will see collusion by corrupt parties to ruin the proportionality aspect of the new law (one of the few positives in it), I see a chance to piggy-back on their lists in some districts and get people who truly represent us to the parliament.

Let’s assume a party has a lot of influence in a certain district, enough to secure 5 out of 8 seats for their list. The first 2, 3 or 4 seats might be for their partisans, but given the extreme unpopularity of the political parties that drowned us in darkness and garbage and bad Internet for decades, they want to adopt figures that are independent on their list, to beautify the ugly deal they are giving their constituents.

Here, we have a chance to exploit the extreme displeasure with established parties, and convince their voters to award their preferential vote to the non-partisan candidate, a figure often supported by the general electorate, but not enough to abandon the political parties list to vote for another independent list. If this works, we guarantee that 1 or 2 of the 5 seats they will win, will be people we like, not stooges that will vote like their party leader commands.

Of course, this should only happen in districts where there is absolutely no hope for an independent list to do well on its own. I don’t know about you, but if a certain party can have 4 instead of 5 partisans on its list win, and 1 be a decent human being that has achieved more in life than simply being related to one of the za3ims, sounds good.

We are fighting a battle against a tough, ruthless and cheating opponent. We need to understand the confusion they’ve created is meant to bolster their chances and discourage independent voters from thinking change can ever happen. It can, and we can make their dirty tricks backfire on them, and get MPs that actually think like us and will fight for our rights and the public good.

Why Political Parties Are Terrified of Forming Lists was originally published in Gino’s Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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