The Beirut Bar Association elected a new leader on Sunday in a vote that saw big losses for opposition candidates and big wins for representatives of the country’s ruling elite.
Nader Gaspard has been 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 supported by several of the country’s main political parties, according to local media.
For many, his victory marks a victory for the country’s ruling class, just months away from the first parliamentary elections in Lebanon since 2018.
Lawyers backed by opposition groups across the country have also failed to land 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 the rampant corruption and nepotism that led to the country’s worst financial crash.
It has also collected and processed hundreds of criminal complaints from victims of last year’s deadly explosion in the port of Beirut, in a bid to hold the state to account.
Many in Lebanon will wonder if Sunday’s vote could foreshadow similar gains for established political parties in parliamentary elections slated for March.
The vote will mark Lebanon’s first major electoral test since its financial collapse began in 2019.
It comes as the Lebanese, nearly 80 percent of whom live below the poverty line, struggle to survive on limited incomes, endless power cuts and price hikes.