- Title: LEBANON: Lebanese political groups launch media campaign to lure voters
- Date: 24th April 2009
- Summary: BEIRUT, LEBANON (RECENT) (REUTERS-ACCESS ALL) (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) BEIRUT RESIDENT, BILAL MARZOUK, SAYING: "Every person will vote according to their mentality. Even though adverts may have a bit of an influence, but in the end the person will vote for what they believe in." TRAFFIC
- Embargoed: 9th May 2009 13:00
- Location: Lebanon
- Country: Lebanon
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA1PJAQE7WHOA4PRA28KGNILRYU
- Story Text: Political groups in Beirut are intensifying their campaigns to attract undecided voters ahead of parliamentary elections in June, but experts and people on the street say the campaigns will have little effect on votes.
Large billboards with political slogans cast their shadow on Lebanon's highways, signalling the start of an election season that is expected redraw the country's complex political landscape for the next four years.
"Lebanon is a country for all its people," reads a Hezbollah billboard against the backdrop of the Shi'ite group's emblem of a machine gun and its signature yellow colour.
Lebanese will vote to elect to a new 128-member parliament on June 7.
As the date approaches, campaigning is expected to intensify as competition grows between the two political camps; the pro-Western March 14 bloc and the March 8 alliance led by Hezbollah.
''Let your vote be a choice between right or wrong,'' says an ad by the Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah's Christian ally.
Traditionally, Lebanese have not turned out in great numbers to vote.
Overall voter turnout in the 2005 elections was 44.43 percent, according to the report of the European Union Observation Commission on the elections.
The low voter turnout means there is a large number of undecided voters who have not been lured strongly enough to go to the ballot boxes. If Lebanese groups were to offer these undecided voters a good reason to vote, that would certainly tip the scale, one expert says.
"In Lebanon, the people who actually go out and vote are not a lot. Normally, the turnout is 50 percent at the best of times. So if you have 50 percent of the population who are undecided and you can lure them to go and vote for you in sizeable numbers, then that would surely make a big difference," said Ramez Maluf, professor of media at Beirut's Lebanese American University (LAU).
Ads running on billboards, television and radio channels are promoting the promise of change and improvement, but Maluf says one issue is set to dominate all others - Hezbollah.
"There are people who see both sides and cannot decide because they can see both the positives and negatives of each. These normally will not vote and it is very hard to reach them unless you offer them something new.
This is the problem today, that debate is all about Hezbollah's weapons. There is no other issue, they are not interested in the economy, they are not interested in social problems or anything else. What is on the table is Hezbollah's arms and everyone agrees on that and they are considering the elections as a referendum on it. So advertising will not work unless it provided a new idea," he added.
But despite the attention, some residents of Beirut said they don't think political campaigning can have a significant impact on a political landscape that has for decades been carved out by sectarian identity.
"They don't do anything. They have been putting up billboards for the past 30 years and it has done nothing. Those who are going to win, will win. These advertisements are nothing but aesthetics," said Ahmed Harb, a Beirut resident.
University student Elias Haddad agreed.
"Advertisements will definitely not change anything in people's opinions, because first of all, we live in a society where everyone puts there political affiliation to one side and refuses to look at the other side. It is planted in their mind as soon as they are born by their families, surroundings and political background to the extent that they cannot see anything else.
This leads people to cling to their opinion and disregard others," he said.
Lebanese media has always been influential in politics. Every political group has it's own publishing, TV and radio outlets.
Lebanon almost slid into all-out civil war last May when a dispute between Hezbollah and its March 14 rivals descended onto the streets and triggered violence. But a Qatar-mediated political consensus helped lead the way for the new elections to take place.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
- Copyright Notice: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2011. Open For Restrictions - http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None