Can This Man Alter Lebanon's Political Landscape?

The moon is seen among illuminated decorations near Al-Amin Mosque on the second day of the holy month of Ramadan in Beirut, Lebanon May 18, 2018. REUTERS/ Jamal Saidi

Sami Gemayel has focused his entire electoral campaign on social, economic and environmental issues that affect every Lebanese household.

The Kataeb is currently conducting a review of what went wrong in the elections, although it’s evident that this was not merely an electoral failure but rather a political crisis. What happens next? Sami has two choices, and each has pros and cons. He could truly break with the feudal past of the Kataeb and create a new party in his own image, consistent with his pluralist and reformist vision. Or he could make tactical fixes and avoid a potentially destabilizing soul-searching exercise.

The first choice is radical and likely to alienate the old guard in the party. But Sami would be able to woo supporters from outside party ranks who are desperate for political change in the country. The second choice is more pragmatic and limits internal dissent. But it’s gradual and might not be sufficient to terminate the sclerosis that has ailed the party for years. Also, it won’t be able to attract many external supporters.

Sami appears to favor the first path, as evidenced by the current composition of his party’s political bureau, which includes figures who don’t have much experience in the Kataeb’s history. If that’s the case, kudos to him for prioritizing political change and essentially realizing that for the Kataeb to live, it has to die first.

Bilal Y. Saab is senior fellow and director of the Defense and Security Program at the Middle East Institute.

Image: The moon is seen among illuminated decorations near Al-Amin Mosque on the second day of the holy month of Ramadan in Beirut, Lebanon May 18, 2018. REUTERS/ Jamal Saidi

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