The Lebanese lead their battle with a secular political order to the polls

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Beirut, Lebanon
CNN

The coastal highway that connects the northernmost tip of Lebanon to the south of the country is dotted with holes wide open. The stench of the landfills hangs in the air like emaciated men rummage dumpsters, the faces dirty with earth.

Towering above the wreck caused by nearly three years of economic collapse, there are endless rows of election posters. Some show relatively unknown candidates lined up by new political groups. But most show the looming faces of decades-old sectarian party politicians. Most of the campaign slogans promise “change”.

The irony is not lost to anyone in a country where the neglect of the political elite nearly destroyed the capital in the the largest non-nuclear explosion in history.

On Sunday, Lebanese citizens will vote for a new parliament for the first time since the an Uprising of October 2019 he called for the fall of a secular political order. The road to political change has been spread with challengesand whether this year’s elections will provide a new political composition is far from certain.

But this is a time of reckoning for the Lebanese political elite. The establishment they represent is a microcosm of the region’s decades-old fault lines, pitting groups backed by archrival Iran and Saudi Arabia against each other. The change in Beirut’s political order could mark a first step to rid the country of its medley of proxy conflicts and have a ripple effect in a region where protest movements have so far failed to bring about political change.

A lot has happened since Lebanese protesters took to the streets in 2019, leading three-time Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government of national unity and leaving a political crisis behind. According to the United Nations, a financial spiral has impoverished nearly three quarters of the population. A banking crisis has seen the life savings of many Lebanese vaporize. Meanwhile, the kleptocratic elite would move billions of dollars outside the country, prompting Western authorities to investigate the country’s famous central bank governor, Riad Salameh. Then, the Lebanese troubles culminated in a gigantic explosion in the heart of their capital in August 2020, after improperly stored chemicals caught fire in the port of Beirut, devastating many of the city’s neighborhoods and killing more than 200 people.

The Lebanese elites recognized their collective political bankruptcy as they desperately tried to escape responsibility for their individual failures – and their support base has not held them accountable. Electoral demonstrations by Iranian-backed Hezbollah on Monday attracted tens of thousands of people. Their rivals – such as the right-wing Christian Lebanese forces – have also mobilized thousands of volunteers. Meanwhile, anti-establishment groups have seen infighting that prevented them from creating a unified electoral coalition, diminishing their chances of success at the polls.

Yet activists have been rigorous in their campaigns for change on social media and in the field. Tens of thousands in the great Lebanese diaspora voted last weekend and voter turnout was manifestly higher than the 2018 elections, with many claiming to have voted for non-institutional groups.

Images of voters in long lines snaking out of Lebanese embassies and consulates overseas have appeared on national television stations, cheering on those who have lost hope and raising the specter of a protest movement that is making its way into mainstream politics.

An irresistible desire for change in Lebanon, and in the region in general, it is undeniable. Whether this translates into political change is another question, which the election results could help clarify.

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan dies at the age of 73

The UAE announced that the flags would be waved at half mast for a 40-day period, starting Friday, and work would be suspended in the government and private sectors for three days.

  • Background: Sheikh Khalifa’s role has been largely ceremonial since he suffered a stroke and underwent surgery in 2014. Since then, his brother, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, has been the de facto leader of the United Arab Emirates, managing today’s business day for the Gulf State.
  • Why it matters: Under the rule of Sheikh Khalifa, the UAE has become an economic and military powerhouse of the Middle East. It has conducted military interventions overseas and has invested billions of dollars in the global economy, but it has also engaged in bold diplomacy by normalizing relations with Israel. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, known by his initials MBZ, is expected to continue on the path of the late president.

The EU says talks with Iran are “positive enough” to reopen nuclear negotiations

The EU foreign policy chief said on Friday he believed there had been sufficient progress during consultations between his envoy and Iranian officials in Tehran this week to revive nuclear negotiations after two months of deadlock.

  • Background: Talks to revive Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers have been suspended since March, mainly due to Tehran’s insistence that Washington remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from the list of groups designated as terrorist organizations .
  • Why it matters: If a nuclear deal is reached, sanctions against Iran would be lifted, adding over a million barrels of Iranian oil to the world market as Western states try to dampen the rise in oil prices caused by the Russian war. in Ukraine. Middle Eastern states with the ability to increase production have so far refused to do so.

Israeli police use batons to beat people carrying Al Jazeera reporter’s coffin

Israeli police used batons to beat the crowd carrying the coffin of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh in the courtyard of Jerusalem’s St. Joseph Hospital on Friday. The coffin was shaken and thrown back to the hospital before she was allowed to leave for her last burial site in the Mount Zion cemetery. Police checkpoints have been installed near the hospital.

  • Background: Palestinian-American journalist was shot dead Wednesday while reporting Israeli military incursions into the West Bank city of Jenin. The Washington Post reported that Israeli military investigators stole weapons from Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) troops as part of an investigation into three shooting incidents that occurred during the day.
  • Why it matters: An accident, according to the Washington Post source, occurred “on a road about 150 meters (about 490 feet) from where Abu Akleh was killed.” The source said this incident was “the most likely to be involved in Shireen’s death.” In the incident under investigation, IDF troops were in a vehicle and at least one armed Palestinian was shooting at the vehicle, the source said. Military investigators are trying to determine where Abu Akleh was during that exchange, according to the source.

The legacy that murdered Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh leaves behind is “blatantly clear,” said CNN’s Eleni Giokos. Watch CNN’s special tribute to the late Al Jazeera reporter here:

A Syrian refugee who fled the war in his country nine years ago became a millionaire thanks to his programming skills.

In a story of perseverance and determination, 32-year-old Mahmoud Shahoud won the $ 1 million prize at Dubai’s One Million Arab Coders initiative, beating 256 other entrants from 50 countries.

The Dubai government initiative aims to increase digital literacy in the Arab world by teaching 1 million young people in the region to code. Six projects from Arabs from around the world have tried to develop this year’s most innovative coding project.

Shahoud fled Syria in 2013 and settled in Turkey, where he now lives, according to The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi. He signed up for the free training provided by the initiative that allowed him to create Habit 360, an app that helps people start, track and organize habits and routines. It is currently only available on the Google Play Store, where it has been downloaded more than 100,000 times.

The programmer intends to donate half of his winnings to help orphaned Syrian refugees, and the rest will go to found his tech startup in Dubai, where he plans to relocate, according to the newspaper.

Five runners-up also won $ 50,000 each for their projects, with apps like Muhammad Al-Iskandarani’s Muaahal program, which helps people qualify in all fields through simplified education, and Iman Wagdy’s 3lfraza app. , which provides fresh food prepared by women at home.

By Muhammad Abdelbary