PM Saad Hariri’s Future Movement (FM), former PM Najeeb Mikati’s Azem Movement, Safadi, and even General Rifi have joined a grand alliance and are supporting MP Dima Jamali, whose election was nulled by the constitutional Council. Meanwhile, the contender, Mr. Taha Naji and his list headed by Mr. Faisal Karameh who filed the motion against MP Jamali’s election, has refused to participate, claiming that he should have won the seat by default once MP Jamali’s election was deemed irregular.
The power distribution in the 2018 general elections (check this analysis for more):
Mathematically, the current alliance between Future Movement, Mikati, Rifi should receive 65,000 votes based on the 2018 elections. Meanwhile, the main contender Mr. Mosbah Ahdab should get around 3,000.
These numbers are misleading because the turnout this Sunday will be much, much lower than in 2018. Indeed, in the 2018 general elections 94,047 voted in Tripoli, out of 237,330. This amounts to a 39.6% turnout rate. I project that at best, around 50,000 voters will participate this Sunday, and probably less. This is equal to a 20% turnout, plus or minus.
The much lower projected turnout will be due to:
1- turnout has been historically lower in special and by elections in Lebanon. The only available data point is a comparison between 2009 general elections and 2010 special elections in the Minieh Dinnieh district.
In 2009, the 14 March candidates won with an average of 38,000 votes. Meanwhile in the 2010 by elections 14 March candidate won with around 20,000 votes. That is almost a 50% drop in turnout.
(unfortunately, due to the lack of open data, additional data points, electoral statistics and numbers are hard to come by, especially electronically and in a machine-readable format. This is why we have worked on the Data Liberation Project with NDI.
2- usually, when a political party is not directly involved in the elections, its effort to energize the supporters and push people to vote is much lower compared to when it has a candidate running. Thus, Mikati, Safadi, and Rifi will not fully deploy their electoral campaigns or spend the necessary funds and efforts to increase turnout and enthusiasm among their supporters.
3- In general, voters are much less likely to participate in low competition elections with no strong candidates running against each other’s.
4- There is also 1,559 out of county voters, who will not participate in this election by voting in Lebanese embassies all over the world. (the law only allows them to vote, if they come to Lebanon in person.)
Therefore, if we apply a 20% general turnout to the alliance of Future Movement, Mikati, Rifi Mrs. Dima Jamali should receive 32,000 votes. I still believe that this is still a high number, and hard to get.
On the other side, we have Mr. Mohsbah Ahdab, an ex-MP that was a major component of 14 March coalition, in addition to several civil society candidates. Mr. Ahdab received 3,300 in 2018, anything above that will constitute a good showing. Especially if he reaches 5,000 (10,000 is even possible, but hard, if Karameh and other dissatisfied parties rally around him). Meanwhile, the civil society candidates, seems not to have learned anything from 2018. They fielded five candidates, diluting their support, and depressing the enthusiasm of anti-establishment voters. They are not expected to receive more than a few hundred votes.
In conclusion, Future Movement candidate is almost assured of victory, however this election will be a test for FM ability to energize and push their supporter to vote, and will show if Mikati, Safadi, and Rifi’s support was real or just words.
The threshold will be around 20,000 votes for Jamali, any result below would be disappointing. Meanwhile, anything above 25,000 would constitute a great showing and a renewed vote of confidence for Future Movement and PM Hariri popularity in Tripoli.
PS: watch turnout during the day, and compare it to this partial turnout list, courtesy my obsession with archiving election data. Although, these numbers were posted by the Minister of Interior during election day on May 6, 2018. But the numbers are not very accurate, use them more as an indicative trend line, rather than in absolute terms.