The 2018 campaign of the civil society: Breaking through the sectarian system?

On the 6th of May 2018 the Lebanese are voting for their parliament for the first time in 9 years. Elections, supposed to be held in 2013 but postponed repeatedly for security concerns, are held under a new electoral law. There is a huge discontentment with the political system and a high level of political apathy. The garbage crisis of 2015 and the municipal elections of 2016 showed that a huge segment of society does not feel adequately represented by the established political parties. This representation issue has a lot to do with the inherent corruption of the ruling political class and their failure to provide basic public services.

The 2018 election saw an increase in candidates who do not come from the traditional sectarian parties. These civil society groups, who have their roots in previous protests, try to create a new political discourse around secularism, citizenship and pro-human rights.

Civil society is a broad term. In general, it is used for non-state actors that are active outside the mainstream political centre. Lebanon witnessed an active civil society in the garbage crises and the municipal elections. They rally on a secular, environmental, anti-corruption cause. As such, civil society groups are the political opposite of the establishment. Mainstream Lebanese parties mobilize on a confessional base and use their position to maintain a patron-client relation with their constituency. By contrast, civil society groups do not claim any sectarian base and are outside the current clientelist system.

This paper examines the emergence of the civil society groups out of the events in 2015 and 2016. Several groups were established to contest in the parliamentary elections. During this process, groups had to surpass their differences for creating a coalition. Not all groups had this approach, some preferred to stay local and abstain from going into a coalition.

Beside list formation, civil society faced challenges in reaching out to a sufficient number of people. Traditional parties put enormous amounts of money in their campaign, which are means that the civil society do not have. A more structural challenge is the nature of the Lebanese sectarian system, which does not allow a non-confessional party to gain an easy access in the decision-making process. This paper followed closely the campaign of the civil society and will be published just after the elections. As such, the election result is included and the events in the days after, but an in-depth electoral analysis was not the aim of this research.

Product details
Date of Publication
June 2018
Heinrich Boell Foundation - Middle East
Number of Pages
Language of publication
Table of contents


Introduction - 2

Events before the elections - 3

Garbage protest and Beirut Madinati - 3

Electoral law - 4

List formation in Beirut - 5

Kollouna Watani - 5

Beirut II - 5

Libaladi - 6

Campaign - 7

Rallying - 7

Programme - 8

Challenges - 10

Election results - 10

Conclusion - 11

Methodology - 12

Interviews - 12

References - 13

Footnotes - 13