Call for Researchers: New on The Scene, Can Emerging Political Actors and Women Make Headway in Lebanon's 2018 Parliamentary Elections?

Call for Researchers

Hivos International - Beirut Office and Lebanon Support, within the Women Empowered for Leadership project, are currently seeking to commision researchers for the development of two briefing papers on the following topic:

New on The Scene: Can Emerging Political Actors and Women Make Headway  in Lebanon's 2018 Parliamentary Elections?


Thirty years after the official end of the civil war in Lebanon (1990), the Lebanese political system is showing, more than ever, symptoms of a deeply entrenched crisis. The “consociational” political system[1] contributes to hampering the stabilisation of the political scene as well as the consolidation of the state[2]. These confessional and religious divisions embedded in the system along with political familism[3] contribute to restraint the effective participation and emergence of new actors, notably women, thus limiting political turnover.

The 2018 Lebanese parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place on 6 May after nearly a decade since the last time they were held. A new election law was finally  passed in October 2017, after members of parliament had extended their mandate three times – in 2013, 2015, and 2017 – each time with questionable legality[4]. While MPs cited security concerns (2013 and 2015) and technical concerns (2017), political analysts referred to an overall lack of political will to hold the elections, lack of adequate campaign financing, possible voter apathy, and no agreement on a new election law[5].

In the the near decade since the last time Lebanon held elections in 2009[6], much has changed: 3 governments have come and gone, the Syrian crisis which had an important impact on the Lebanese political landscape[7], notwithstanding several terrorist bombings, and the kidnapping and subsequent murder of Lebanese soldiers by ISIS[8]; waves of popular protests in the summer of 2015 over the government-induced garbage crisis[9] and, last but not least the Hariri resignation crisis in November 2017 and the ensuing reshuffle of political alliances.

Domestically, the Syrian crisis continues to put an additional layer of pressure on an economy long neglected by the Lebanese political class.  Weak infrastructure, stagnant wages, less than ideal labour conditions, and a squeezed job market are a major concern for many Lebanese, especially young people.[10]

It is against this backdrop that the elections will take place in Spring 2018. Although the Lebanese political class collectively approved the new law, it appears uneasy about the law as it cannot entirely pre-guarantee the result. The new election law introduces some aspects of proportional representation for the first time in Lebanon, and political parties are still grappling with how to adapt their campaigns. In addition, given that national elections have not taken place in a decade, there may be some uncertainty over the “mood” of the electorate. The 2016 municipal elections which took place after the popular protests against the then-government over the garbage crisis showed that at least in some areas in Lebanon, notably Tripoli, and to some extent Baalbeck and Beirut, voters were more willing than in the past to vote for new political actors, mostly coming from civil society. In fact, new actors such as Beirut Madinati, managed to challenge the traditional political establishment during the last municipal elections in 2016, and exceeded the expectations of many in terms of polls.[11]

In this vein, some analysts see that the new proportional law may pave  the way for breakthroughs in the different regions and, hence, constitute an opportunity for the emergence of political alternatives to traditional parties[12].  Its adoption on June 2017  appears to have initiated a new dynamic and has contributed to the rise of new political alliances formed by “civil society actors”, which aim to participate in the upcoming elections in May. However, the major challenge for such groups remains the establishment of a unified front against traditional political parties, based on a relevant electoral programme that will convince voters to shift their political allegiances.[13]  Other challenges include mobilising sufficient financial and human resources to fund efficient campaign machines that can compete effectively with more seasoned traditional parties.

Likewise, the current political system was born out of the convergence of many constructs such as sectarianism and “kin-based patriarchy”.[14] While the former is a about how religious “differences are constructed” in relation to the institutions of social organisation such as the family and the state,[15] the latter is a hierarchical system and a contract that governs the relationships among kin members, empowers men and the elderly over women, children and young adults, and gives “primacy to kinship” over the state.[16] Such system continued to impede women’s access to the political arena despite having obtained political rights since 1953, when they gained suffrage and were granted the right to run for parliamentary elections. Ever since, however, women’s representation in parliament as well as political office continued to be minimal[17]. In 2016, women candidates only represented 6.9% of the total candidates for the municipal elections, and  1.9% of the candidates at the 2009 parliamentary elections, even though they represent 51.2% of the registered.

Today, Lebanon counts four women MPs,[18] all of whom are daughters, wives or sisters of prominent politicians, ministers and parliamentarians.[19] In political as well as public office, women are rarely associated to decision-making processes in Lebanon, and if they are, their function is often symbolic.[20]

In this vein, Hivos International - Beirut Office and Lebanon Support are seeking to commission a researcher (or a team of researchers ) to critically investigate the two following axes, in two separate briefing papers:

  1. The emergence of new political actors: the Lebanese consociational system, consisting of power sharing between communities, has not allowed circulation of political elites, limiting the entry and participation of newcomers to the political scene. However, popular mobilisation in 2015 against the government’s handling of the garbage crisis, the subsequent rise of “new” political groups contesting the 2016 municipal elections coupled with a new election law make the 2018 parliamentary election results less predictable. To what extent does this new political situation facilitate the emergence and participation of new political actors? Also, and without falling in the trap of the “immaculate contestation,” to which extent are these actors new? What  activist histories, genealogies, and experiences do they build on? What are the alliances and coalitions that they are building? And what are the dynamics, shared visions, and interests enabling their coalition forming?  What are their main political demands? Are women’s rights/ issues tackled within these new electoral programmes and how?
  2. Women’s participation in the electoral process: The existing political system that is grounded in patriarchal political familism(s) contributes to  beget questions about the position and status of a politically underrepresented constituency; namely women. What new openings or opportunities have the recent changes in the political terrain brought to women? Which actors are contributing to such changes and how? How successful have been the attempts to create alliances or coalitions supporting the participation of more women? How are women responding to these attempts? What is the impact of these developments on their organising and/or campaigning, if any?           


The two (2) briefing papers will follow an identical format:

  1. Summary of key findings 
  2. Introduction and context
  3. Main findings
  4. Recommendations

Briefing papers should not exceed 2500 words in length (single spaced, Times New Roman 12) and include an socio-political analysis of the 2018 election law, in addition to the campaign period.

Selection and peer review process

Applicants have to submit a clear research proposal including: outline, research problematic, interview lists, primary and secondary sources to: with “Elections 2018 Briefing Papers” in the subject line. Research proposals are to be submitted as word documents. Applications should also include an updated CV and  a cover letter in PDF format, as well as two (2) similar relevant publications.

The selected candidates will work under close supervision of the Hivos International - Beirut Office and Lebanon Support experts, and are expected to incorporate their feedback in their fieldwork, and analysis.

The briefing papers will go through a double (internal and external) peer review process.

Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted. No phone calls please.


The briefing papers are expected to be published by end of March 2018.


Remuneration for each briefing paper will range between 4,000 and 5,000USD to be determined based on evaluation of the applications, and profiles of candidates.

This will be paid as a lump sum, and will include all expenses relevant to the completion of the assignment, in addition to presenting the paper and findings in a round table.


Deadline: 10 February 2018


[1] Arend Lijphart, “Consociational Democracy”, World Politics, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1969, Vol. 21, No. 2, pp. 207-225; Elizabeth Picard, “Is the Consociational system reformable ?”, IREMAM - Institut de Recherches et d'Etudes sur le Monde Arabe et Musulman, 2015, available at; [last accessed 24 January 2018]; Antoine Messara, La gouvernance d'un système consensuel : le Liban après les amendements constitutionnels de 1990, Beirut, Librairie Orientale, 2003.  

[2] Myriam Catusse, Karam Karam, “Liban: des élections pour quoi faire ?, Arab Reform Initiative, 6 juin 2009. 

[3] Suad Joseph,“Political Familism in Lebanon”, Patrimonial Power in the Modern World,  The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 636, 2011, p.150-163.

[4] See: Lebanon Support, “Civil Movement for Accountability”, Website, Civil Society Knowledge Centre, last updated on May 2015, available at: [last accessed 24 January 2018]

[5] Sami Atallah, “Lebanon Needs More than Municipal Elections to Effect Change”, The Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, , April 2016, available at:  [last accessed 19 January 2018].

[6] Myriam Catusse, Karam Karam , Olfa Lamloum (dirs), Métamorphose des figures du leadership au Liban. Champs et contrechamps des élections législatives de 2009, Beirut, Presses de l’Ifpo, 2011.

[7]  Javier Fabra-Mata, Arne Sæverås, William Carter, “The Syrian Crisis and its Impact on Lebanon: A Conflict Analysis”, Beirut, Norwegian Church Aid, 2015, p.6, available at: [last accessed 19 January 2018].

[8] See: Lebanon Support, “Arsal Conflict”, Website, Civil Society Knowledge Centre, last updated on March 2017, available at: [last accessed 19 January 2018]

[9] See: Lebanon Support, “Waste Management Conflict”, Website, Civil Society Knowledge Centre, last updated on October 2016, available at: [last accessed 19 January 2018].  

[10] Zeinab Cherri, Pedro Arcos González, and Rafael Castro Delgado, “The Lebanese–Syrian crisis: impact of influx of Syrian refugees to an already weak state”, Risk Management and Healthcare Policy, Dove Medical Press (Ltd), 2016, p.165-172, available at: [last accessed 19 January 2018] 

[11] See: Lebanon Support, “Beirut Madinati”, Website, Civil Society Knowledge Centre, July 2016, available at: [last accessed 19 January 2018].

[12] Suzanne Baaklini, “Législatives : comment les « outsiders » commencent à s’organiser”, Website: L’Orient Le Jour, 17 January 2018, available at: [last accessed 18 January 2018].

[13] Bachir el-Khoury,  “Lebanon's civil society groups gear up for 2018 elections”, Website, Al-Monitor, 19 June 2017, available at: [last accessed 25 January 2018]

[14] Suad Joseph,“Political Familism in Lebanon”, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 636, 2011, p.150-163.

[15] Ibid, p. 159.

[16] Suad Joseph, "Pensée 2: Sectarianism as Imagined Sociological Concept and as Imagined Social Formation", International Journal of Middle East Studies 40(4),2008, p. 553-554.

[17] Lebanon had six parliamentary elections between 1953 and 1975 (before the civil war), during which only one woman reached parliament (because her father died while in office). The first woman in Parliament was elected in partial elections to finish her father’s mandate.  In 1992, the first women were elected to parliament during regular elections.They were all linked to strong male  political figures (eg: Nayla Moawad, widow of a president; Bahiya al Hariri, sister of Rafik Hariri).

[18] For a full list of candidates and their biographies, see The 2009 Parliament, Website, The Lebanese Parliament, 2013, available at: [last accessed 24 January 2018].

[19] Inter-Parliamentary Union, “Lebanon - Majlis Al-Nuwwab (National Assembly),” Website, Inter-Parliamentary Union, 20 June 2017, available at: [last accessed 24 January 2018].

[20] The  first cabinet to include a woman was in 2004, when two women were appointed ministers in a 29-ministry cabinet. It’s also the Cabinet with the highest representation of women. Since then, 8 ministerial positions (minister or state minister) have been led by female ministers. Even the minister at the head of the Office of the Minister of State for Women's Affairs (OMSWA) - created in 2016 - is a man, and the ministry has a very low budget and authority. Except for one female Finance minister, they were all appointed to “feminine task”, linked to care and social activities leaving regalian domains to men. Lebanon Support and the Lebanese Women Democratic Gathering,  Timeline on “Women’s Acheivement’s in Lebanon”, 2017, available at:  [last accessed 24 January 2018].