Intense battle as Lebanese lawyers choose new members of Bar Association

Sun, 2021-11-21 22:57

BEIRUT: Lawyers in Lebanon conducted an election on Sunday to choose nine members of the Bar Association, and its new head.

The winning members of the association were Imad Martinos, Nader Kaspar, Elias Bazrelli, Abdo Lahoud, Iskandar Najjar, Fadi Al-Masry, Marwan Gabr, Wajih Massad and Maya Al-Zaghrini.

Former President Amin Gemayel said on Sunday: “We hope that the elections will come out with results that embody Lebanon’s ambition, and that this Bar Association will be an example for all syndicates.”

Gemayel, a lawyer like dozens of politicians, made the remarks as he exercised his electoral right.

Last year’s elections were canceled due to the coronavirus disease pandemic.

The 2019 contest led to the election of a head from insurgent groups and the removal of the heads of the ruling parties who had run the Bar Association for decades.

About 7,600 lawyers voted, and 36 candidates stood, including nine for the position of the head of the association.

The election process continued throughout the day and witnessed attempts by the ruling parties to hide under the mantle of independent candidates.

This led to confusion for many voters and an additional effort by the uprising candidates to obtain the majority of votes.

The votes of lawyers loyal to the opposition were distributed among the Lebanese Opposition Front and the Our Bar list. Between the two lists, there were three joint candidates, most notably Najjar.

The parties, meanwhile, supported independent candidates having not named any themselves.

Lawyers affiliated with revolutionary groups kicked the former MP, lawyer Nicola Fattoush,  out from the Our Bar tent in the courtyard of the Palace of Justice, after they criticized him in relation to a quarrying business owned by him and his brother in the Bekaa region.

The competition for the position of association chief centered between Najjar and Kaspar. Kaspar has been a member of the Beirut Bar Association for more than 3 sessions, and was considered the most likely candidate, after the difference in votes between him and Najjar in the results of the elections exceeded 300 votes in his favor.

Kaspar had competed against previous incumbent Melhem Khalaf in the elections in November 2019.

At that time, the parties of the system supported him to prevent Khalaf’s election, but the latter, backed by the October 17 uprising, defeated those parties.

Election observers said “the veteran parties in the electoral process preferred not to announce their support for any candidate in the first round, and then to tell the winning head of the Bar Association that he won because of their votes and that they supported him.”

Independents at several universities in Lebanon in 2019 contested student elections, breaking the grip of the traditional parties, which, observers added, might explain the hesitancy of traditional parties to back candidates overtly.

Observers said that the political parties “have become afraid of the younger generation and shied away from announcing the names of their candidates. This is what prompted them to resort to naming candidates under the name ‘independent.’”

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