Lebanon holds parliamentary elections on June 7, 2009. The main question at stake is whether the country's Hezbollah-led "March 8" coalition will defeat its Western-backed "March 14" coalition. Analysts expect a close vote, and many see a narrow victory for March 8 as likely. The question, then, would be whether the two coalitions join together in a unity government. The makeup of such a government, or potential political clashes if Lebanon's political leaders fail to unite, could also have broad ramifications for the Middle East peace process, ties between Syria and Lebanon, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The vote will also mark the first test of Lebanon's new election law, which was agreed in September 2008, with mediation from Qatari officials, as a resolution to political disputes between Hezbollah and its rivals.
All 128 seats in Lebanon's National Assembly (Majlis al-Nuwab), which functions as the country's parliament, will be contested in the June 2009 elections. Lebanon's September 2008 election law allocates these seats among twenty-six electoral districts. A record number of candidates--nearly six hundred as of late April according to Lebanese news sources--are vying for those seats. Each district is mandated to have a fixed number of representatives from Lebanon's eighteen different religious sects. For example, the Tripoli district is allotted a total of eight seats, five of which are to be filled by Sunni Muslims, one by an Alawite Muslim, one by a Maronite Christian, andone by a Greek Orthodox Christian. This interactive graphic from NOW Lebanon shows the geography of Lebanon's electoral districts and profiles the candidates running in each district. Lebanon's official elections website lists the sectarian breakdown of parliamentary representation in each district.
There are two major competing blocs to watch:
- March 8 coalition (M8): Composed...