On March 6 2018, about 1,8 million Lebanese cast their ballots in a historic vote, the first in a decade.
I covered the election day in Beirut for L’Orient – Le Jour, a French-speaking newspaper. Here are some of my best pictures. All in all, the atmosphere was bizarre, and resembled that of a big soccer championship- plus the army and politicians. In some districts, the air was electric, loaded with tension and chants. In others, the situation was comparable with Europe in its calm. I tried to see different parts of Beirut: Tariq el-Jdideh, Mazraa, Verdun in West Beirut (the rather Muslim part of town), but also Achrafieh and Sodeco in East Beirut, and even Lailaki in the infamous southern suburbs (a Hezbollah fiefdom).
I was lucky to be with Sunniva Rose (Middle-East Eye), L’Orient – Le Jour journalists Acil Tabbara and May Makarem, and even photojournalist Marwan Naamani from AFP.
These parliamentary elections resulted in a net change in the political equilibrium of Lebanon, but also confirmed a continuity. The new electoral law guaranteed more seats for the Shia (represented by the Hezbollah, Amal and allies), but also for the 14-March Christians (Kataeb and Lebanese Forces). President Michel Aoun’s popularity seemed stable, but Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s formation lost about 1/3 of its seats.
1:15AM, Geitawi (East-Beirut).
Half a dozen cars parade with Lebanese Forces (Christian party of Samir Geagea) flags and music, probably waking up the whole neighborhood.
8:50AM, Verdun (West-Beirut).
A supporter of the Future movement (party of Hariri, Sunni, blue), argues with a team of Fouad Makhzoumi (Sunni, red) supporters. Verdun, West-Beirut.
9AM, Verdun (West-Beirut).
A Hariri-supporter brandishes an “azar” (blue, eye-shaped amulet), used by the Future movement as a logo for the 2018 elections. Verdun, West-Beirut.
9:30AM, Verdun (West-Beirut).
Saad Hariri heads to the polling station. This day is crucial for his party, which dominated Lebanese politics (alongside the Shia Hezbollah and the Christian Free Patriotic Movement), but is set to loose seats due to the new electoral law.
9:40AM, Verdun (West-Beirut).
A soldier guards the entrance to the polling station. The Lebanese Army deployed 20,000 extra personnel to watch over the polling.
9:45AM, Verdun (West-Beirut).
Hariri is greeted by a passionate fan in a dense crowd of about 200 supporters. But the announced “blue wave” was slow to happen, as many new Sunni lists tried to grab some extra seats.
10AM, Verdun (West-Beirut).
A Future movement supporter cries after having met Saad Hariri.
10:45AM, Verdun (West-Beirut).
Policemen, soldiers and bystanders watch as Future movement supporters leave the polling station after Hariri voted. The whole day long, cars displayed partisan flags and played loud music.
11:15AM, Tariq el-Jdideh (West-Beirut)
Two young voters exit a polling station in the poor, mixed (Sunni, Shia) area of Tariq el-Jdideh, known for being a lively and sometimes dangerous district.
11:20AM, Tariq el-Jdideh (West-Beirut).
Two women wait outside the polling station as their husbands vote. In some districts such as Tariq el-Jdideh, men and women had to vote in separate booths.
11:20AM, Tariq el-Jdideh (West-Beirut).
Supporters of Al-Ahbash (aka AICP or Ansar al-Mashari, a radical Sufi & Sunni party aligned with the Hezbollah), wait outside a polling station.
11:30AM, Tariq el-Jdideh (West-Beirut).
The army intervenes after Hezbollah supporters (with the yellow caps) tried to raise their flag close to a Future movement stronghold, leading to a brawl. Shots were reportedly fired.
12:15AM, Tariq el-Jdideh (West-Beirut).
Two Hezbollah supporters walk past soldiers after clashes with Future movement supporters. The Hezbollah (Shia, pro-Iran, “8 March”) and the Future movement (Sunni, pro-Saudi, “14 March”) are amongst the most vehement enemies on the Lebanese political spectrum.
12:45AM, Malaab el-Baladi (West-Beirut)
An elderly women walks past posters on a wall outside the Arab University of Beirut.
1:00PM, Mazraa (West-Beirut)
Supporters of the Future party help organize the polling at a HQ.
1:00PM, Mazraa (West-Beirut)
A supporter of the Future party cheers for the camera.
2:40PM, Tariq el-Jdideh (West-Beirut)
A voter from the United Kingdom holds his daughter, enveloped in a Future movement flag.
2:45PM, Tariq el-Jdideh (West-Beirut)
A women holds her child and proudly shows she has voted.
4:00PM, Lailaki (Southern suburbs)
Supporters of the Free Patriotic Movement (President Michel Aoun’s Christian party) stand side by side with Hezbollah supporters, in the mostly Shia (and Hezbollah-dominated) southern suburbs of Beirut. The FPM and Hezbollah are allied since a 2006 agreement.
4:40PM, Mar Mitr (East Beirut)
FPM candidate Nicolas Sehnaoui greets his supporters outside ABC Mall, Achrafieh.
5:00PM, Mar Mitr (East Beirut)
Supporters of Michel Pharaon and the Lebanese forces smoke an arguileh outside an HQ. Some came from Chicago to vote here.
5:40, Sodeco square (ex-“Green line”)
Amal supporters display a portrait of Nabih Berry (president of the Parliament) underneath a statue of Bechara el-Khoury, Lebanon’s first president.
5:45PM, Sodeco square (ex-“Green line”)
A girl conspicuously looks at the camera while her car drives by a poster.
8:00PM, Achrafieh (East Beirut)
Nadim Gemayel (candidate for the Christian Kataeb in East Beirut, and son of assassinated president Bachir Gemayel) thanks his supporters after a day of rallying.
9:00, Sassine square (East-Beirut).
Lebanese forces supporters cheer as they are estimated to have doubled their seats in Parliament.
9:15PM, Sassine square (East-Beirut)
Joumana Haddad, candidate for Kulluna Watani, cheers as she is poised to win a seat in Parliament. She lost it the next day due to a recount/fraud. Paula Yacoubiaan, a celeb actress, also won a seat for the civil society’s first entry in Parliament.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s