Lebanese Youth Are Shifting Away From Political Parties

lau.edu.lb / Middle east insitute

The outcome of Lebanese Universities’ recent elections emerged as a strong indicator of the new yet unofficial movement seen in Lebanon today, and which was initially triggered by the Lebanese revolution.

Universities, which are the cradle of the youth and future decision-makers in the country, are witnessing a huge shift towards voting for independent, non-political partisan students, as opposed to candidates of the usual political parties that have long dominated the students’ councils and committees.

This shift has become evident in the recent wins of the independents in the main universities in Lebanon, namely LAU, AUB, St. Joseph University, Notre Dame University, and Rafic Hariri University, where independents are gaining momentum and their groups expanding.

That shift in mindsets is significant as it paves the way, a free one, for changes in the country away from sectarian-politics that failed the people.

In fact, the dean of students at AUB, Talal Nizameddin, pointed out that major shift to Arab News and how the students are harboring “anger toward the system that governs their country.”

That anger is not unjustified nor is it strange to many Lebanese, notably the Thawra people who have been demanding reforms and protesting against corruption.

Hence, during the independent candidates’ campaigns, there was notable support from the public on social media, as well as independent journalists and influential activists like Oleksandra El-Zahran, and others.

Political parties have lost many of their young members and have been unable to reach them, as these students lost trust in their parties, said Dr. Ziad Abdel Samad, social affairs expert and former secretary-general of the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections, to Arab News.

This new movement of liberated mindsets “expresses itself through secular student clubs, some of which are left-wing and others liberal,” he said. “The traditional parties are no longer able to convince educated generations.”

Unlike the assumptions of some that the revolution has failed, it has in fact brought many changes at the base of what really matters, that which could ensure long-term results.

Those same people who claimed the failure of the revolution also laid the blame on the people’s mindset for electing and re-electing the same leaders. That is no longer a valid argument as noticeable today on the ground, whether in the universities or in professional associations. The mindset has significantly shifted.

“The revolution and protests have weakened all parties in Lebanon without exception,” admitted Mohammed Mansour, the Progressive Socialist Party’s youth commissioner, to Arab News. However, he claimed that since the revolution doesn’t have “a clear, consistent program,” it won’t be able to transition “toward real change.”

Yet, the real change is unmistakably shaping up.

The uprising of the people couldn’t yet yield the reforms this country is in dire need of, not with ruling leaders who stubbornly refuse to make concessions, hanging on tight to their own opposed interests. But the one-year-young revolution has yielded shifts in decades-old mindsets, which is crucial for building a healthy and functional foundation without which no changes are possible.

Those who believe that an old broken system can be repaired and changed in one year or so have been misled. A revolution is a long journey of changes at various levels.