Tags Posts tagged with "Nadim Gemayel"

Nadim Gemayel

Even if independent candidates don’t win big on election day, they are already having an impact on Lebanese political culture. They have introduced new styles of campaigning that come as a sharp contrast to how politics is commonly practiced in Lebanon.

While establishment politicians deploy their usual tactics: blanketing the streets with their faces:

Photo: Ali Harb/ Middle East Eye 

Spending hundreds of millions of dollars on canvases that say nothing and will be thrown in the garbage:

But also colonizing public spaces and causing traffic jams:

وصول الرئيس سعد الحريري الى قهوة دوغان – طريق الجديدة

Posted by Saad Hariri on Friday, May 4, 2018

 

Throwing lavish events for their supporters:

Posted by LF photos on Thursday, May 3, 2018

 

Giving out free flags and hats:

Posted by OTV on Saturday, April 28, 2018

 

Free food:

Balloons:

And even a Hezbollah orchestra, literally singing for your support:

Independents, meanwhile are taking the race to some unusual places. But places that are not unfamiliar to most Lebanese, who are not living in a party atmosphere.

The Madaniyya party, for example, held a press conference at a giant trash dump to call attention to the incumbent parties’ failure to deal with Lebanon’s waste crisis that is endangering public health.

Rather than adding more pollution to the mix, the Kollouna Watanti party created virtual posters on Facebook, photoshopping over the politicians faces with a deeper message: “When you see their advertisements, remember their accomplishments.”

فقط للتذكير أنّ اعلاناتهم ووعودهم الانتخابية التي تملأ طرقاتنا.. كان الاجدى ان تستخدم بتكاليفها الباهظة ليخبرونا عن انجازاتهم لا تكرار وعودهم التي لم تتحقق طوال تسعة سنوات..

Posted by ‎كلنا وطني‎ on Tuesday, May 1, 2018

 

Meanwhile the Kelna Beirut list decided to cover some of the faces with reflective sheets, bringing the campaign focus back to the voters and away from the leaders’ self promotion.

إنتو بيروت، كلنا بيروت

إنتو بيروت.#كلنا_بيروت

Posted by ‎Kelna Beirut – كلنا بيروت‎ on Tuesday, May 1, 2018

 

The Beirut list, LiBalladi, also introduced something that shouldn’t be new: debates between candidates

Curiously, establishment candidates cancelled their appearance at the last minute for unclear reasons.

Independents are also using their new platforms to raise important questions not often tackled by the media.

Here, candidate Ali Darwish unpacks the danger to Lebanon’s water resources that may result from the recent loans taken out by the Lebanese government as part of the “Cedre” package:

موقف علي درويش من مؤتمر سيدر للاستدانة!#كلنا_وطني

Posted by ‎Ali Darwish علي درويش‎ on Monday, April 30, 2018

 

Another party asks how well do you know your MPs? Do they ever come around when elections are over?

مين بتعرف من نواب بيروت الحاليين ؟#عصام_برغوت #بصوتك_يستمر_العطاء #لبنان_حرزان#تعليم #فرص_عمل #صحة #بيئة #انتخابات_٢٠١٨

Posted by ‎Issam Barghout – عصام برغوت‎ on Saturday, April 21, 2018

 

Finally, a LiBaladi commercial reminds voters that politicians have failed to address rampant pollution along the country’s beaches, the lack of safe public spaces for children to play and dangerous, overburdened roads with no public transportation:

شو عاملين ب6 أيار؟

Let's all get up and vote for hope on May 6!ما تطولوا النومة كتير، أجلوا مشوار البحر والجبل، وتعوا نصوت للتغيير ب6 أيار#شو_عاملين_ب6_أيار؟ #صوتي_لبلدي #كلنا_وطني

Posted by ‎LiBaladi – لبلدي‎ on Thursday, May 3, 2018

 

Now what is interesting is also how mainstream parties have reacted to independent campaigns. While some like Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea dismissed independents, others have somehow taken up some activist causes of recent years.

Here, Nicholas Sehnaoui, a former minister and senior leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, includes the Fouad Boutros Park in his list of projects, a plan proposed by heritage activists five years ago.

هيك بتصير بيروت الاولى!

هيك بتصير بيروت الاولى!تعرّفوا على برنامجي الانتخابي عبر: http://program.nicolas-sehnaoui.org

Posted by Nicolas Sehnaoui on Monday, April 23, 2018

 

Other candidates, such as Nadim Gemayel, have also begun speaking about the need for a right to the city, public spaces and sustainability, brought up extensively by new parties from previous elections such as Beirut Madinati.

Gemayel spoke recently to Facebook page El 3ama, which illustrates an important campaigning media change: politicians are now talking to alternative websites, when in the past, political communication strictly took place on party-run or affiliated channels. Interviews like this one let us see the candidates in a less controlled environment, catching them off guard at times and thus revealing more than they may have wanted to say:

Live NG El-3ama

Posted by Nadim Gemayel on Tuesday, April 10, 2018

 

Mainstream media outlets like LBC also seem keen on capturing a broader youth audience, with shows like Lawen Waslin, which is a bit like Carpool Karaoke with politicians. In this interview, former minister and political veteran Wiam Wahab takes activist positions on the destruction of Lebanon’s coast by private resorts. But then also in an awkward moment reveals that “women should not act like men.”

Major Lebanese TV channels are also reportedly charging guests up to $250,000 per appearance, keeping primetime a commodity mainly limited to the country’s business and political elites.

We saw a similar trend of activists differentiating themselves from mainstream political practices during Beirut’s municipal elections in 2016, where ruling party candidates also mimicked activist rhetorics. (You can read more about that in this previous post.)

Could this influence continue to strengthen in future elections?

During an episode of Al Jazeera’s The Stream, this week, I spoke with independent candidates and was struck by all the organizing work that has gone into their campaigns, with some creating nationwide alliances for the first time. Activist causes helped bring these individuals together to build wider networks and stronger platforms, competing in municipal elections, union elections and now parliamentary elections.

You can watch the full episode here:

Independent candidates are realizing that politics is a long term game, that takes years of organizing, alliance-building and election strategizing. But they are advancing quickly and their influence is already being felt. The mere fact that politics is taking place outside the established party system, that people now have alternative ways of expressing themselves and being heard is a feat on its own.

The number of candidates running this year (1,000) is an exponential increase on previous years, particularly when it comes to over 100 women candidates, including an unprecedented all-female election slate:

Posted by 10452 on Tuesday, March 20, 2018

 

Suddenly establishment parties are also featuring a number of women on their lists. Was this also a reaction to gender rights activism over recent years?

In their campaign posters, establishment parties project an air of confidence. This billboard simply says: “Beirut, don’t worry.”

But maybe Beirut should worry. The country is facing an environmental disaster, a public services disaster, a refugee crisis on a globally unprecedented scale, just to name a few.  Even if activists do not win, they are forming stronger coalitions of dissent to challenge those in power.

The political parties are still very entrenched and well resourced- after all, they have been building themselves up for decades. But their media and messaging is increasingly undermined and outdated. With so many new online media outlets, they can no longer monopolize public debates and hide uncomfortable issues from public view. With so many people interested in politics for the first time (partly due to the party’s failures) competition and oversight is growing and politicians cannot rely on old tactics as much as they once did.

In this changing political environment, it is the old guard that should be worried or at least less comfortable, and that could be a good thing for everyone.

If you still haven’t made up your mind, there are many resources out there such as Mist3ideen and Megaphone that have put together some extensive research on the candidates and the voting process.

4

The Daily Star reported today that a bodyguard associated with prominent banker Antoun Sehnaoui stabbed a man to death in a “road rage” incident. But with the victim stabbed some 15 times after being kicked around the street as seen in multiple cell phone videos, it might be more appropriate to call this act a barbarian homicide on par with what so horrifies us about the violence of groups like ISIS.

Of course when there is no beard involved, the story is told a bit differently. Initial reports and blog posts did not even mention Sehnaoui’s name at all, using curiously vague terms like “powerful banker” instead. Both LBC and MTV do not mention Sehnaoui’s name in their reports, neither did The Daily Star in its first article on the topic, though it was included in a subsequent piece.

MTV coverage:

LBC coverage:

To its credit, LBC also noted with an onscreen graphic that the police failed to intervene despite repeated calls by the victim’s wife:

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 1.37.12 PM

Yet this apparent fear of naming Sehanoui, who is the head of SGBL Bank–one of Lebanon’s largest– may be due to the fact that he has actually threatened legal action against anyone using his name “slanderously” in association with the crime in a statement issued by his lawyer. In the statement Sehnaoui, claims he supports full justice for the victim– Georges Al Rif, a father of four–and that this case was an “isolated incident.”

But was this really an isolated incident and to what extent should Sehnaoui be held accountable for the armed and very dangerous men on his payroll? In fact, this is not the first time we read about the alleged brutal violence of Sehnaoui’s bodyguards in the news.

Many will remember the shootout that occurred in a nightclub in 2010 when Sehnaoui’s bodyguards were summoned before a court for their possible involvement in firing a hail of bullets that wounded another businessman. According to OTV, some 100 bullets were fired and several eyewitnesses claim the violence was perpetuated by the Sehnaoui bodyguards:

Meanwhile a Twitter user alerted me to yet another incident of a fatal shooting where Sehnaoui’s bodyguards are also claimed to be involved, according to at least one report. But I could not find any news articles on that one. Can anyone verify this?

At any rate, are all of these coincidences or “isolated incidents” as Mr. Sehnaoui claims? How probable is it that his bodyguards would be implicated in at least two extremely violent crimes and yet he claims to support justice? What happened to the those who shot up the nightclub? Did they remain employed by Sehnaoui even after the armed violence?

Sehanoui is not alone. I watched and filmed firsthand as a bodyguard associated with MP Nadim Gemayel raced his car into a crowd of protestors, severely injuring one. The event happened right in front of a police station:

The Gemayel bodyguards had previously beaten activists savagely and threatened them with machine guns when they activists demanded they remove their cars that were blocking a street leading to their offices. Gemayel offered numerous varying testimonies on the case when interviewed in the media, even claiming the young feminist activists threw rocks and sticks at his vehicle, an outlandish story not supported by any of the video evidence, which he later backed off of. Still was justice ever served? What happened to those bodyguards?

In yet another case earlier this year a woman was reportedly beaten by bodyguards associated with interior minister Nouhad Machnouk. The women, who turned out to be a lawyer is now suing. But will she make any progress and will the minister be held accountable in any way?

The Lebanese people have long been plagued by the violent savagery of elites and their bodyguards, who not only helped destroy the country during the war years but continue to cause havoc today, blocking streets, intimidating or physically assaulting civilians and then threatening those who speak up or even mention their names in association with the crimes they commit. Media outlets perpetuate the impunity by remaining silent or propagating falsehoods in their favor, often because the news outlets are owned by the politician or his associates. And to top it off, police–also fearful– often stand by and do absolutely nothing. Fortunately today technology is changing this total grip on power as people can now document and broadcast these events in ways never previously imagined. Hopefully this progression of citizen empowerment will eventually continue to the courts and legal system.

One item worth debating: Should elites also be held accountable for the men who carry deadly weapons in their name? Perhaps bodyguards would be less monstrous if their bosses could actually go to jail for the violence they regularly commit.

Tonight, some have planned to march to Mr. Sehnaoui’s mansion demanding justice. Others have started a crowd-funding campaign to help the family pay for the legal case. And the hashtag #JusticeforGeorges is starting to go viral on social media, along with dozens of news stories. Step by step, people are starting to chip away at once untouchable elite power that endangers their lives and those of their children. It is sad that Georges and many others have had to pay the ultimate price so that society can begin to question those who rule this country with impunity.

 

***

UPDATE: A crowd of police have deployed to protect Mr. Sehnaoui’s mansion from family and friends of the victims. One woman shouted out: “Where were the police yesterday when Georges was stabbed in the street?”

UPDATE 2 (18/7/15): The crowd-funding campaign to raise money for Georges’ family has already exceeded its goal and raised over $15,000 in just one day:

Screen Shot 2015-07-18 at 12.24.48 PM

 

UPDATE 3 (18/7/15): The news site Naharnet is expanding the list of alleged past crimes by the bodyguard who killed Georges as well as other bodyguards supposedly working for the same banker. In addition to the 2010 nightclub shooting, they have compiled a list from various news organizations which includes:

-The reported shooting death of a man at a motorcycle shop in 2012 (mentioned briefly above) in Saad Bouchrieh

-The reported beating and cutting off of an ear of a sports instructor in 2012 and intimidation of a female student at Zahrat el-Ishan school in Ashrafieh

-The reported beating of a valet parking attendant in 2009 at Sofitel hotel in Ashrafieh

You can read the full roundup here. If anyone can confirm or deny of these events please feel free to share in the comments below.