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Take Back Parliament: the Lebanese civil society is looking for tomorrow's MPs

BEIRUT | - February 13, 2013, 17h29
Par Louise Wernvik
A photo from Take Back Parliament's campaign website:
Look out March 8 and 14: the Lebanese youth is gathering up to take back parliament… The movement Take Back Parliament recently came to light to "run a new democratic campaign for the 2013 elections with new candidates that look a lot more like us than like millionaires and warlords", TBP's website explains. Will this year’s parliamentary elections in Lebanon mark the historic beginning of a new movement?
It started out last summer. They were hung up on the broken democratic process in Lebanon which they felt was tormenting their entire lives. Sick of having their basic human rights thrown into corruption, they decided that Lebanon needed a new political platform. So blew the first breeze slowly into the young hearts of activists. A hope began to rise and more people joined in.

Today, 150 people have joined the initiative called Take Back Parliament, hoping to become a national movement. Nadine Moawad has been a member from the beginning. Like many of the others, she was working in an NGO (Nasawiya, fighting for women´s rights) when she decided to join the game of politics as well, hoping to finally gain some results. But the options for siding with Lebanese politics were slim and as an alternative to March 8 and 14, TBP was born.

“We want to battle out elections based on family, money and religion. We need to take back parliament from corruption,” Moawad said.

In anticipation for the MPs to settle on a new electoral law, TBP is waiting to launch their campaign. Regarding the electoral law, TBP are rooting for the civil society proposal, which suggests one district, no confession and proportional representation.

“All proposals they have are self sufficient proposals. They serve only for them to become MPs again. The system is broken and we need to fix it and it needs a lot of initiatives,” Moawad said.

While TBP are holding their staggering horses, they are now working on building their socioeconomic justice agenda. Moawad said that their main values will involve human rights, women´s rights, social justice, jobs, taxation, electricity, health care and all the aspects that would make a society run smoothly and facilitate the everyday life. According to Maowad, Lebanese politicians care more about confessions and their own representation than the real issues of this country.

“We need some radical grass root change. We have one of the laziest parliaments in the world. If we get elected for parliament, peoples basic needs will become the priority instead of the battle for power,” Moawad said.

One of the goals of TBP is also to lower the MP salaries and put the money into more useful matters. On the TBP website it reads:

“To filter out potential MP nominees who might be power- or money-hungry, every candidate supported by this campaign will legally pledge to donate their MP’s salary to university scholarships.”

A Lebanese MP gets paid 8000 USD a month. The minimum wage in Lebanon is 400 USD a month. TBP proposed to cut today’s MP salary in half. If a TBP member would get elected to parliament, he or she would not accept today´s MP salary but donate the surplus to development, like university grants for example.

More money into institutions and less in the politicians pocket. That is the main theme for both agenda and campaign. Moawad herself might come knocking on your door as the elections start to rattle up. Since there is no funding for their political struggle, they plan to tour the country in the simplest ways. Like using their own homes for headquarters, cook their own food and tour the country by going from door to door, having a face to face conversation with every citizen they come across.

“The reactions I´ve received so far are that people are incredibly excited to be part of something new. Everybody agrees that we need new people for the elections,” Moawad said.

TBP is mainly focusing on the youth because they consider the young people to suffer the most in Lebanon. Today, youth unemployment in Lebanon is as high as 25 percent and 40 thousand young people leave Lebanon every year. The fleeing population leaves holes in society and an echo of desperation, saying, “Get out while you still can”.

Is a storm on the rise?... For this year’s election, the MPs will face a new and younger opponent. Will the experienced and familiar politicians win the votes against the strong willed activists? The answer is, like the revolutionist Bob Dylan said, blowing in the wind.
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