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December 27, 2020 | 39 Pages | Georgia Dagher and Nadim El-kak
Fighting Against the Odds: Emerging Political Actors in the 2018 Lebanese Parliamentary Elections

The 2018 Lebanese parliamentary elections saw a record number of emerging political actors participate in the electoral race, with 124 candidates running across 13 electoral districts. Despite this record number, their overall performance was disappointing, with only one of these candidates making it to parliament. However, the performance of emerging political actors varied across and within electoral districts. They tended to perform better in more urbanized, more economically developed, less impoverished, and more confessionally diverse areas. Moreover, their inability to capture votes largely depended on traditional political parties’ greater ability to mobilize voters, as higher turnouts were associated with a lower share of votes for independents. Additionally, independent candidates had highly disparate performances, partly explained by which seat they were running for. Their constituents showed a confessional bias, meaning that independent candidates running in a district where their co-sectarian voters were the majority group generally performed better than candidates representing a minority group. Aside from this, anti-establishment political actors competing against traditional parties faced particular challenges in running successful campaigns. For example, familiarity with voters and wide exposure seem to have held higher importance for voters than elaborate electoral programs. These groups suffered from a lack of prior familiarity with voters while campaigning at the grassroots levels, and their limited financial capital made media exposure largely in accessible, thus hindering their ability to gain voters’ trust in the short amount of time available. Also, emerging actors were not adequately prepared for election day, especially in terms of the number of representatives they were able to recruit and train. Lastly, independents were generally aware of ways they could have improved different facets of their campaigns, yet lack of time was the most consistent impediment to enacting those improvements.

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