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December 26, 2020 | 46 Pages | Sami Atallah and Nadim El-Kak
Discourse as an Electoral Campaigning Tool: Exploiting the Emotions of Voters

This paper examines the speeches of notable candidates and sectarian political leaders in the run-up to the 2018 Lebanese parliamentary elections. Through an analysis of 81 speeches given by 20 political actors, we argue that the rhetoric of ruling parties is dominated by talks of out-group positioning, favoritism, and a glorification of the past. Their discourse can be categorized into three strategy-based groups: Clientelists, ideologists, and oppositionists. Despite those different approaches, all sectarian parties share a common reliance on affective rhetoric, using fear-mongering, affection, victimization, and symbolic references to the parties’ histories. We complement our analysis with a deeper look at intra-party regional variations and show how particular political contexts push parties to adopt radically different rhetorical strategies. We end by highlighting the dangers posed by these discursive strategies, and show how a range of reforms can help reduce the salience of affective rhetoric while prioritizing policy-based campaigning.

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