Lebanon marked its one-month anniversary on Sunday as protests entered its 32nd day. On that same day, Lebanon witnessed a historic win against the ruling parties.
On Nov. 17, lawyer Melhem Khalaf, a civil society member and a social activist, was elected to head the Beirut Bar Association, the first time an independent candidate with no political affiliations wins the seat. He scored a total of 2,341 votes.
"We hope this day will renew democracy within Lebanon's institutions," Khalaf said in his victory speech.
Khalaf secured more votes than his opponent Nader Gaspard, an independent candidate who gained the support of several political parties following the withdrawal of their candidates. Gaspard, who got a total of 1,532 votes, was backed by the Free Patriotic Movement, Lebanese Forces, Progressive Socialist Party, and the Future Movement.
Former association president Andre Chidiac announced Khalaf's victory as lawyers chanted "thawra" aka the Arabic word for "revolution."
The win is a milestone for the revolution in the country. Political parties did not get things going their way for once. They tried to team up against an independent candidate by supporting another non-partisan runner, but their methods proved to be a complete fail.
Until recently, the head of the association was normally occupied by party-controlled lawyers, often backed by the Free Patriotic Movement headed by Minister Gebran Bassil. So it shouldn't be a surprise that people began chanting a revised version of the famous "Hela Hela Ho" song, which targeted Bassil at the beginning of the protests.
In addition to his victory, it is important to note that Khalaf ran a paperless campaign and "made sure of cleaning other candidates' leftovers," a Facebook post on his official page read.
The ruling parties in Lebanon have left lots of leftovers in need of cleanup including a crumbling economy, violations of human rights, $86-billion worth of debt, a sectarian system, illegal draining of public funds, and the list goes on and on.
An apolitical government is one demand protesters want to see materialize; a government that hires experts in their field of expertise rather than experts that fit the mold of the ruling elites.
Khalaf's win is not only victorious because it means the bar association has been liberated from political parties. It is "crucial for anti-corruption cases, economic justice, protection of protestors from violence, arbitrary arrest, and ill-treatment, and overall impartial accountability," journalist and human rights researcher Kareem Chehayeb wrote in a tweet prior to Khalaf's win.
The BBA Council last held elections in November 2018; all four of the members elected were affiliated with political parties, according to The Daily Star. Politicians' influence may "prevent the bar from taking a stand against corruption in other sectors in Lebanon where its members may have interests," the English daily added.
Following Khalaf's win, the celebrations poured in on social media.
"I hope to see an independent government, an independent parliament, and an independent president take over the country as a whole," Lebanese author, feminist, and activist Joumana Haddad tweeted in the aftermath of Khalaf's win.
"Congratulations on your respectable and conscionable victory. Congratulations to the revolution, to the independents, to all Lebanese citizens. We now have a president [for the BBA]! I hope to see an independent government, an independent parliament, and an independent president take over the country as a whole."