The Beirut Bar Association elected a new head Sunday in a vote that saw major losses for opposition candidates and big wins for representatives of the country’s ruling elite.
Nader Gaspard was chosen to replace Melhem Khalaf, an independent candidate whose election two years ago was widely hailed as a victory for a 2019 protest movement demanding a political overhaul.
Gaspard ran as an independent candidate but is backed by several of the country’s top political parties, according to local media reports.
For many, his victory marks a win for the country’s ruling class, just months away from Lebanon’s first parliamentary polls since 2018.
Lawyers backed by the country’s opposition groups also failed to clinch a single seat on the association’s nine-member council.
Under Khalaf’s leadership, the Beirut Bar Association was instrumental in supporting opposition activists demanding an end to endemic corruption and nepotism that led to the country’s worst-ever financial crash.
It also collected and processed hundreds of criminal complaints from the victims of last year’s deadly blast at the Beirut port, in an effort to press for accountability from the state.
Many in Lebanon will be wondering whether Sunday’s vote could foreshadow similar gains for established political parties in legislative polls scheduled for March.
The vote will mark Lebanon’s first major electoral test since the onset of its financial collapse in 2019.
It comes as Lebanese, nearly 80 percent of whom live below the poverty line, battle to survive with scant incomes and endless power cuts and price hikes.