I am not optimistic about the elections.. US official: The system is broken in Lebanon... and the opposition is divided

“The opposition is horribly divided, filled with narcissistic and personalistic leaders, who are more interested in leading their own parties than uniting to overthrow the corrupt elite.” With these words, former US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker diagnosed the current situation in Lebanon, ahead of the parliamentary elections, He stressed that “there are about 100 parties running in the elections, including the usual parties and also all these small parties,” believing that “they will eat each other, and will not win enough seats to make a shift in the balance.”

Schenker said: “Personally, I am not optimistic about this election, and I do not think that the US administration should bet on it. There is a broken system in Lebanon, and elections – according to electoral laws like these – will clearly not fix it.

During a symposium conducted by the Washington Institute, entitled “Hezbollah and Shiites Dynamics and Lebanon’s Elections: Challenges, Opportunities, and Political Implications,” Schenker stated that during the Trump era, his country “imposed sanctions on Hezbollah’s financial institutions and on the Jammal Bank, and synchronized that immediately after the establishment of the agency. Moody’s credit rating downgrades Lebanon’s rating.

He added, “We were the ones behind the decision to lower Lebanon’s credit rating, and the Trump administration was keen to synchronize the announcement of the downgrade with its imposition of sanctions on Jamal Bank, as it imposed them the next day immediately.”

He pointed out, in this context, that “Washington did not stop at this limit, but also imposed sanctions on Hezbollah’s ally, the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gebran Bassil.” Regarding the US investment project in the forces of “civil society”, Schenker acknowledged that Washington was looking for “political opportunities”, after it saw that “there is an opportunity in defeating Hezbollah, as in the municipal elections in 2016”, citing the case of “Beirut Madinati” during Municipal elections, which they wanted to build on. Regarding working to create alternative forces in the “Shiite community” against Hezbollah, Schenker said that Washington “planted Shiite businessmen,” noting that “during his tenure as Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, he traveled to Lebanon several times, and each time he was He holds public meetings with Shiite businessmen and journalists who oppose Hezbollah.

He explained that the goal of these meetings revolved around “promoting opportunities for economic plans for the Shiite regions, to help weaken these regions’ dependence on Hezbollah.”

As for his expectations about the outcome of the parliamentary elections, Schenker said that “despite the protests that occurred in 2019, and the widespread popular discontent in Lebanon, I do not see that the elections will change the situation in a dramatic way.”

He referred to the issue of the attack on the Free Patriotic Movement and its “perception of it as corrupt” because of its relationship with Hezbollah, considering that “it is not clear whether this method will affect the choices of the Christian voting base as intended.”

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