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SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Lebanon’s 2022 Parliamentary Election: A Look into Political Parties’ Online Behavior Vis-à-vis Alternative Candidates

Tuesday , 03 January 2023
Design: Mahmoud Younis

Lebanon’s 2022 Parliamentary Election: A Look into Political Parties’ Online Behavior Vis-à-vis Alternative Candidates” is a report that monitors and analyzes quantitatively and qualitatively election-related content on social media from April 1 to May 24, 2022.

During this phase, 1,914 data entry points were analyzed out of 30,647 captured. These entry points analyzed were negative content disseminated by users against alternative lists and candidates. This report focuses on a sample of four alternative electoral lists, namely:

  • Tawahhadna lil Taghyir توحدنا للتغيير (United for Change), in Mount Lebanon’s fourth district (Shouf-Aley).
  • Maan Nahwa al Taghyir معاً نحو التغيير (Together towards Change), in South Lebanon’s third district (Nabatiyeh-Bint Jbeil-Marjayoun-Hasbaya);
  • Nahwa al Dawla نحو الدولة (Towards the State), in Mount Lebanon (Metn); and
  • Shamaluna شمالنا (Our North), in North Lebanon’s third district (Besharri-Zghorta-Koura-Batroun).

As for Beirut al Taghyir بيروت التغيير (Beirut Change), in Beirut’s second district; keywords used to scrape the date resulted in insufficient number of data entry, disabling holistic analysis, the team had to resort to manual method to retrieve data, mainly related to media appearance and online reactions, hence the analysis of this electoral list is limited to timestamp analysis.

This study explored three main objectives:  

  1. Identifying the narratives circulated by traditional political party supporters and their digital behavior.
  2. Understanding social media communication techniques and tools of potential misinformation used by established political parties; and
  3. Defining archetypes of polarization in the digital sphere.


The main findings can be summarized as follows:

  • Compared to traditional political party-affiliated candidates, alternative candidates did not have the same ratio of media appearances. Nevertheless, these few appearances were occasions for traditional political party supporters to circulate negative content, be it trolling, misinformation by taking sound bites out of context, or allegations of hidden affiliation with different coalitions and external powers.
  • Trolling was omnipresent throughout the content analyzed. We noticed that trolling was deployed to cover up a lack of political arguments, or through the form of users attacking candidates on their looks or choice of words.
  • Traditional political parties "othered" alternative candidates. Othering implied warning, i.e., creating a portrait of an enemy out of the alternative candidate, and/or downplaying, i.e., taking away the ability of the alternative party to make a tangible change hence power should be kept where it already lies, within the incumbent traditional political party.
  • The reference to Lebanon’s civil war was common in the online discourse of traditional political party supporters. The accusation of communism was frequently used against alternative candidates, who were criticized for their alleged leftist tendencies or accused of being affiliated with the Lebanese Communist Party (LCP). This accusation was mainly used against Christian alternative candidates, echoing the civil war antagonism between leftist parties and the mostly conservative Christian population. Another civil war narrative resurfaced in Christian-majority districts, with allegations of affiliation with the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) and the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP). For example, users from the Lebanese Forces (LF) massively accused Shamaluna candidates of being supported by SSNP and this accusation turned into warning against voting for these candidates. Also, Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) supporters warned against voting for Aley candidate Mark Daou, alleging he is "affiliated with PSP" in an attempt to revive the deeply rooted Michel Aoun-Walid Jumblatt opposition.
  • Treason was an allegation used as a marker of patriotism. It was waged against candidates who are opposed to Hezbollah, accusing them of being "Zionists" and "traitors," and conspiring against Hezbollah to serve an Israeli agenda. On the other end of the spectrum, treason was used by LF supporters’ users to warn against candidates who were allegedly affiliated with Hezbollah calling them "Dhimmis”, meaning Christians who seek Muslim protection or aiming for Muslims’ votes to actually win.
  • The popular protests of October 2019 were one of the pillars of polarization. In addition to the 2005-born polarization between the March 8 and March 14 blocks, and the subsequent positioning vis-à-vis Hezbollah, a new axis of polarization emerged: a “revolutionary” spectrum, evaluating candidates according to their conformity level to their proximity to the traditional political establishment, their affiliation with banks and other parties, and their relationship with incumbent public figures.
This report was authored by InflueAnswers with the support of the Samir Kassir Foundation and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation.

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