BEIRUT: Election results for the Beirut and Jbeil Lebanese American University campuses split Friday between March 8 and March 14 groups, with the March 8 faction winning a majority at the Beirut campus and March 14 winning a majority in the Jbeil student council.
March 8 factions won nine seats out of 15 on the Beirut campus student council, while March 14 won six seats. As for the Jbeil campus, March 14 won 10 seats out of 15 and March 8 won one seat after the Free Patriotic Movement withdrew from the elections, with four independents filling the remaining seats.
The Progressive Socialist Party boycotted Friday’s elections at the Beirut campus, leaving the decision between the March 8 and March 14 groups.
“We tried to broker a consensus between rival groups in the university, but we failed. In addition, we have reservations on the new electoral system which – if put in place – will lead to increased sectarian tensions among students,” said PSP student group spokesperson Kamal Matar on his party’s stance, referencing the one-person-one-vote electoral system established at LAU this year.
The Beirut campus elections were originally scheduled for late November but were postponed after a clash in the first week of the month between students from the Future Movement and Amal Movement, resulting in the expulsion of six students – five from Future and one from Amal. Due to the incident, the Future Movement had earlier said the party would boycott the rescheduled round of elections, but changed that decision after the expelled students were allowed to rejoin the student body.
“The university decision was biased with five people from our party being expelled but no serious measures applied on the opposing groups,” said Tarek Hajjar, the head of student affairs for the Future Movement.
The LAU elections were conducted this year for the first time using a one-man-one-vote system. Under this system, students could only vote for one representative for their own faculty and class. Previously, the elections used a majoritarian system in which students could select a list of 12 council members from across the three faculties.
Lara, a sophomore, said the one-man-one-vote system helped achieve a more democratic climate.
“The problem is not always the law; students do not know how to communicate with each other, which might lead to clashes,” she said.
In addition, students at the Beirut campus commented that participation was low compared to previous years.
Nabih Fawwaz, head of Amal Movement at LAU, said various factors could have caused the low turnout: several postponements of the election date, a university ban against campaigning on campus and the election falling on a Friday.
Elections took place in a very calm and democratic climate with the March 8 list, under the slogan “We can,” the better organized group in terms of campaigning and visibility – even using walkie-talkies for inter-campus communication.
Students from both the March 8 and March 14 factions expressed satisfaction on the overall electoral process despite disagreeing with some university regulations, such as not being allowed to distribute candidate lists near the university’s gates.
The Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections monitored the elections at LAU Beirut for the first time, reporting several violations despite measures taken by university to ensure transparency.
Among these, the only major violation was that university employees who were administering the elections could view filled-out ballots before they were put it into a scanner, posing a threat to the secrecy of voting.