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Middle east

Lebanese political dynasties

Text by Marc DAOU

Latest update : 2009-06-05

The Lebanese go to the polls on June 7 to elect their parliamentary representatives. More than 580 candidates, including members of Lebanon’s ruling dynasties, are competing for 128 parliamentary seats.

The Lebanese go to the polls on June 7 to elect their parliamentary representatives. The issue of the vote is uncertain, as is the future of the country. More than 580 candidates are competing for 128 parliamentary seats, including several from a particular category that includes members of Lebanon’s ruling dynasties. Aside from the country's traditional political feudalism, which divides positions of power between members of Lebanon’s different religious majorities, there is now a flock of candidates related to a “martyr”, stressing the violence that underlies Lebanese political circles. Two major candidates from the current majority, Walid Joumblatt and Saad Hariri (photo), follow in the footsteps of their fathers, Kamal Joumblatt and Rafic Hariri, whom were assassinated in 1977 and 2005 respectively.

Martyrs’ descendants

Whether they be the sons or daughters of political figures, or heirs to an electoral stronghold, or both, nearly 30 candidates in the upcoming elections have a name that sounds familiar to voters.  One of the most well-known is Nadim Gemayel, son of former president Bachir Gemayel, murdered in 1982. The family's dynasty is sometimes called the ‘Lebanese Kennedys’, in reference to the number of its members who have been killed. This is Nadim’s first time running for office, along with his ticket-mate Nayla Tuéni, 24, daughter of former journalist and lawmaker Gebran Tuéni, murdered in 2005. Gemayel isn’t the only candidate from the Maronite family. His cousin Sami, son of former President Amine Gemayel, is also in the running from Matn district. If elected, he would succeed his brother Pierre, a young parliament member and former minister of industry, assassinated in 2006.

A new guard marked by violence

 In the north of the country, in Zgharta, Michel Moawad is taking over his own mother Nayla’s role. Nayla Moawad was an MP, a former minister and the widow of former president Réné Moawad, murdered in 1989. “I’m very proud of my parents, but I would rather people vote for me for my political platform," Michel Moawad tells FRANCE 24, "not my family background”.

“I don’t want to enforce Lebanon’s feudal system, I don’t agree with it. I’m fighting for new, young voices to make themselves heard and participate in the debate”, adds Moawad, although he admits that his name helps his voice stand out. “My son belongs to a generation which is all too aware of the violence that plagues Lebanon,” says Nayla. “They have to measure up to their forefathers and continue the battle for their country’s sovereignty,” she says.

Son-in-law, nephew and wife “of”…

Opposed to the Moawads in the Zgharta district, Sleimane Frangié inherited the political stronghold of his late grandfather and namesake, and that of his father, MP Tony Frangié, murdered in 1978. Close to the Syrian regime, he will try to win back his seat, lost in 2005. His ally, the Christian Michal Aoun, is not part of a prestigious political family but comes from a modest background. He claims to have been the first to tackle Lebanon’s feudal political system. Nevertheless, he pushed his own son-in-law, Gebran Bassil, at the head of the Telecommunications ministry, to run for office. Aoun's nephew is also running. Their longtime rival in the Christian community, Samir Geagea, nominated his wife, Sethrida, as candidate in his stronghole Becharre, in the north of the country.

This is just the beginning of a lengthy list of old and new dynasties who rule over Lebanon. In reality, apart from the reputation and semblance of legitimacy that their family names give them, for many of these young candidates running for office is a way of defying the killers who murdered their relatives.  

Date created : 2009-05-22