AUB elec­tions see split in tra­di­tional po­lit­i­cal al­liances

Hezbol­lah, coali­tion and in­de­pen­dents elected in calm and or­ga­nized at­mos­phere

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - LEBANON - By Karim Husami

Close elec­tions for the Amer­i­can Uni­ver­sity of Beirut stu­dent coun­cil Fri­day saw the coali­tion rep­re­sent­ing the now-de­funct March 8 split with the March 14 na­tional po­lit­i­cal coali­tion and in­de­pen­dent party seats.

Dozens of can­di­dates from po­lit­i­cal par­ties, in ad­di­tion to in­de­pen­dent can­di­dates, com­peted to rep­re­sent their peers based on lists of can­di­dates or a pre­ferred vote, where one per­son is se­lected from a list.

Ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial re­sults re­leased by the uni­ver­sity, the Hezbol­lah-Amal al­liance of Stu­dents for Change, Lead­ers of To­mor­row – a coali­tion of the Le­banese Forces, the Fu­ture Move­ment and Free Pa­tri­otic Move­ment – and an in­de­pen­dent party Cam­pus Choice each took six seats.

Stu­dents re­ported that “one in­de­pen­dent will join March 8. How­ever, this has not been of­fi­cially con­firmed by ei­ther party,” as the in­de­pen­dent rep­re­sen­ta­tive has not of­fi­cially an­nounced his join­ing of March 8.

This year’s elec­tion was unique in that po­lit­i­cal al­liances were built on prag­ma­tism ver­sus tra­di­tion and that the sec­u­lar party saw par­tic­u­lar suc­cess. Le­banese stu­dent elec­tions are closely watched as a bell­wether of na­tional po­lit­i­cal sen­ti­ment.

The Free Pa­tri­otic Move­ment made a sur­pris­ing step by aban­don­ing its al­liance with Hezbol­lah and Amal to join the Le­banese Forces and Fu­ture Move­ment.

The Pro­gres­sive So­cial­ist Party did not field any can­di­dates, hav­ing with­drawn from elec­tions in all uni­ver­si­ties ear­lier in the week, say­ing the pur­pose of the elec­tions to im­prove in­sti­tu­tions had been lost.

How­ever, a fi­nan­cial eco­nom­ics mas­ters stu­dent said, “The Pro­gres­sive So­cial­ist Party re­al­ized they were los­ing in elec­tions, that is why they with­drew. “They do not have ‘a right path’ and they are af­fil­i­ated with a dif­fer­ent party each year.”

Carl Abou Jawde, the Free Pa­tri­otic Move­ment’s ad­min­is­tra­tor said, “We have had a prob­lem with Amal since last year’s elec­tions when they crossed can­di­dates from our party off the list in one of the fac­ul­ties,” ac­cord­ing to lo­cal on­line me­dia out­let Al-Modon. “We have an un­der­stand­ing with Hezbol­lah about [leav­ing the coali­tion],” he added.

The elec­tions took place be­tween 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Fri­day. All stu­dents not at­tend­ing classes or lab ses­sions were barred from the uni­ver­sity’s cam­pus from 5 p.m. as the votes were counted, with ID checks at the en­trances en­forced. The Le­banese As­so­ci­a­tion for Elec­toral Democ­racy sent ob­servers to over­see the elec­tions.

On the AUB cam­pus, while the vote was tak­ing place, a can­di­date from Stu­dents for Change who asked not to be named told The Daily Star that “elec­tions are be­ing held in a calm and or­ga­nized at­mos­phere with no prob­lems.”

He said he was con­fi­dent in his party’ s chance of win­ning and in its abil­ity to bring change to the uni­ver­sity. “Each can­di­date has his own plat­form to im­pact his fac­ulty,” he added.

A can­di­date from the March 14af­fil­i­ated Lead­ers of To­mor­row stressed that “Aounists [FPM] did not get any seats in the uni­ver­sity last year so it is nor­mal for them to be an­gry and aban­don the pre­vi­ous coali­tion.” He noted, how­ever, that “this only hap­pened in AUB.”

“We agreed for them to join be­cause of the coali­tion be­tween Aounists and Le­banese Forces that led to Michel Aoun’s elec­tion as pres­i­dent. Our [Fu­ture Move­ment] coali­tion with Le­banese Forces will stay strong,” he con­tin­ued. “Aounists are one of the po­lit­i­cal par­ties that were part of the March 14, 2005, rev­o­lu­tion, so we wel­comed them.”

Be­fore the re­sult was an­nounced, the Stu­dents for Change can­di­date was con­fi­dent that the ad­di­tion of FPM would boost their changes. He stressed, how­ever, that “The sec­u­lar party has a re­ally im­por­tant role in AUB and be­came re­ally strong, but we don’t know the rea­son be­hind it. It is con­sid­ered a good com­peti­tor.”

“We hope that this year will be dif­fer­ent for us,” he said. “All par­ties have the same aim to bring change, but some of the par­ties sug­gest changes that aren’t pos­si­ble, like low­er­ing tu­ition fees and ban­ning smok­ing etc. but we all want to bring pos­i­tive change.”

A can­di­date from Cam­pus Choice, Ab­dul Sat­tar Ouayda, said that change was pos­si­ble if can­di­dates could bring fac­ul­ties to­gether and be prag­matic. “But we have a lot of things to change,” he added.

He said he did not agree with the way elec­tions were han­dled in terms of po­lit­i­cal al­liances. “Those par­ties just care for win­ning while we care for bring­ing pos­i­tive change.

“Many stu­dents don’t know each other, es­pe­cially new stu­dents, so we try open­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion and fa­cil­i­tat­ing di­a­logue be­tween them,” he added.

Fac­ulty of Arts and Sci­ences grad­u­ate stu­dent Elias Chou­cair said,

“You don’t have any sec­tar­ian di­vi­sions or hate among peo­ple here, which en­cour­ages you to vote,” he added, not­ing that he voted for Lead­ers of To­mor­row’s can­di­date be­cause he liked the party’s plat­form this year.

“You have many stu­dents that don’t vote or have de­cided to stop vot­ing, but this should change be­cause it’s the only way to hold ac­count­able any can­di­date by not vot­ing for them next year.”

For her part, Eco­nom­ics MA stu­dent Dana said that she had stopped vot­ing af­ter hav­ing held a seat. “I won in 2009’s elec­tions,” she said. “When the Stu­dent Coun­cil meet­ings had to be held to de­cide how to ap­ply our pro­gram, no­body would at­tend and [this sit­u­a­tion] con­tin­ued that way un­for­tu­nately. This made me change my mind and stop vot­ing.”

In par­al­lel, the Le­banese Forces swept a vic­tory at Notre Dame Uni­ver­sity in Zouk Mos­beh while other po­lit­i­cal par­ties split the re­main­ing seats. Ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial re­sults re­leased by the uni­ver­sity, the Le­banese Forces alone took 33 seats (80 per­cent), while the March 8 coali­tion took eight seats and Kataeb took two.

The elec­tion of 43 can­di­dates dis­trib­uted across all fac­ul­ties be­gan at 8:30 a.m. and pro­ceeded with­out in­ci­dent. In NDU’s elec­toral sys­tem, it is al­most im­pos­si­ble for any po­lit­i­cal team to win all seats as it ad­heres to a pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion sys­tem. How­ever, both the Law and Po­lit­i­cal Science and Nurs­ing and Health Sci­ences fac­ul­ties use a one per­son, one vote sys­tem.

Le­banese stu­dent elec­tions are closely watched as a bell­wether of na­tional po­lit­i­cal sen­ti­ment.

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