Association mining

Intense battle as Lebanese lawyers choose new members of the Bar

BEIRUT: Lawyers in Lebanon held 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 lead to results that embody Lebanon’s ambition, and that this bar will be an example for all unions.”

Gemayel, a lawyer like dozens of politicians, made these remarks while exercising his electoral rights.

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

The 2019 contest led to the election of an insurgent group leader and the removal of ruling party leaders who had ruled the Bar Association for decades.

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

The electoral process continued throughout the day and saw attempts by the ruling parties to hide under the cloak of independent candidates.

This caused confusion for many voters and an extra effort by the uprising candidates to secure the majority of votes.

The votes of lawyers loyal to the opposition were divided between the Lebanese Opposition Front and the Notre Barreau list. Between the two lists, there were three common candidates, notably Najjar.

The parties, for their part, supported independent candidates who did not nominate any themselves.

Lawyers affiliated with revolutionary groups have evicted former MP barrister Nicola Fattoush from the Our Bar tent in the courtyard of the Courthouse after criticizing him over a detained quarrying business by him and his brother in the Bekaa region.

The competition for the post of association leader was 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 election results exceeded 300 votes in his favour.

Kaspar had faced former incumbent Melhem Khalaf in the November 2019 elections.

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

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

Independents from several Lebanese universities in 2019 contested student elections, breaking the stranglehold of mainstream parties, which observers added could explain mainstream parties’ reluctance to openly support candidates.

Observers said political parties “became afraid of the younger generation and were hesitant to announce the names of their candidates. This is what prompted them to name candidates as “independents”.