Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Tripoli: Little Reward for Political Loyalty

Residents of poor Tripoli neighbourhoods display election posters despite municipal ban and an apparent lack of political interest in their plight.
By Nour Al-Hoda Afyouni

Displayed on balconies, or plastered above shop windows, posters of political leaders can be seen everywhere in Al-Hara al-Beraniyeh, a deprived neighbourhood of Tripoli.

But despite this virtual presence, politicians rarely visit to see the deprivation of this area, with its poor basic services and lack of development projects.

Mounira, one of the residents of the neighbourhood, displays the photo of one politician because “he is good with us”. But she quickly adds that she wished he and other politicians would visit to look more closely at their difficult living conditions and listen to their demands and needs.

The spread of political portraits began a few months ago, ahead of the June municipal elections. All over Lebanon, candidates often pay residents to display large posters on their balconies and the rooftops of buildings.

They were undeterred by a recent decision by the interior ministry banning political posters, a ruling partly motivated by a fear that in some neighbourhoods, political photos and slogans would create tensions among residents with different affiliations.

But despite this official decision commanding municipal policemen to remove all posters and penalise anyone who did not cooperate, many neighbourhoods of Tripoli are still plastered with politicians’ portraits.

The head of the municipality, Nader Ghazal, said that the posters would be eventually taken down, but that such an operation would require time due to insufficient numbers of police officers.

Another factor contributing to the persistence of this phenomenon of was “people’s mentality”, said Ghazal.

Traditionally, Lebanese politics are based on a client system whereby influential politicians, businessmen and religious leaders guarantee people’s allegiances by distributing welfare and services to them that state institutions often fail to provide.

In some neighbourhoods, people express their political allegiances by displaying photos of politicians they say they have more loyalty towards to than to the state itself.

Some inhabitants of the Batiniyah neighbourhood said that they were fond of the political posters because they represented a mark of gratitude to political leaders who helped them and their families.

Pointing to a poster, neighbourhood resident Khoder Hawli said, “I have been supporting this politician since forever. I will not remove it even if they decide to put me in jail.”