The Beirut Bar Association (BBA) Council elections are scheduled to take place on Nov. 19. The deadline to apply to run in the elections was this Monday at 2 p.m.
Fifteen lawyers, 11 of whom are also running to succeed BBA President Nader Gaspard as BBA president, have joined the race for the six vacant seats. The 11 candidates running for council presidency are Tanios Eid, Iskandar Elias, Fadi Haddad, Youssef Khatib, Farid Khoury, Abdo Lahoud, Fadi Masri, Wajih Massaad, Ibrahim Moussallem, Alexandre Najjar and Adib Zakhour.
To qualify for the presidency, candidates must make it through the first round, which also involves the election of the BBA’s council members. In addition to the aforementioned candidates, Shawki Shreim, Wissam Eid, Labib Harfoush, and Elie Klimos are running solely for the council.
The council is made up of 12 lawyers, one-third of which are changed each year, with four lawyers elected for a three-year term.
This year however, the election will be held to fill six seats instead of four, since two additional seats became vacant after Wajih Massaad and Alexander Najjar (both independent) resigned to qualify for the presidency. Massaad and Najjar must run in the first round of council elections in order to then run for the two-year term BBA presidency.
Massaad was elected into the BBA Council five times and this is the second time he will run for its presidency.
Najjar also ran for the presidency before. In 2021, he withdrew from the race for the president’s seat after winning in the first round of elections in 2021 and subsequently joining the council. Najjar chaired the French-speaking community committee within the BBA.
Abdo Lahoud, a current council member whose term of office also expires next year, has also resigned to run for the council’s presidency. Lahoud’s seat is not vacant however, as he has already been replaced by Maya Shehab, who was elected as a substitute member in the 2021 elections. Lahoud is an independent candidate and is supported by the Lebanese Forces. He also ran for the president’s seat in 2021, but lost to Gaspard.
Besides Najjar and Massaad, the remaining outgoing members include Elie Bazerli, Imad Martinos, Marwan Jabre and Fadi Masri.
Fadi Masri, a Kataeb member, joined the BBA council in 2021 and is running for the president’s seat for the first time.
The seven remaining contenders include the following:
-Tanios Eid ( independent) is running for a fourth time for both a seat in the BBA council and for the presidency.
- Fadi Haddad, a member of the Free Patriotic Movement, has served two terms on the BBA Council and is running for the president seat for the first time.
- Iskandar Elias (independent) was a member of the Council from 2015 to 2019.
- Farid Khoury (independent), was a member of the Council from 2008 to 2011. This is his second attempt at the council presidency.
- Adib Zakhour ( independent) has unsuccessfully run for council three times and is running for the presidency for the first time.
- Ibrahim Moussallem (independent) was elected to the council in 2019 and left a year later because he had succeeded Aziz Torbey, who resigned a year before the end of his term.
- Youssef Khatib (independent), a Sunni, is running despite the fact that customarily, the BBA presidency seat is held by a Christian. There is nothing in the law that prevents Khatib from running. It is his first time running for the BBA council and presidency.
Amongst the four lawyers running only for the BBA council, are two Shiites:
- Shawki Shreim (supported by Hezbollah and Amal) ran in the 2021 elections. Shreim, who was only supported by Amal then, was not elected.
- Wissam Eid (independent) is running for the council for the first time.
The other two candidates are :
- Labib Harfoush (independent), close to the March 14 movement.
- Elie Klimos (independent), is the youngest candidate and son of former BBA President Antoine Klimos.
While most of the candidates are independent or supported by parties, the Oct. 17 movement did not put forward any candidates. The movement suffered a heavy defeat in the 2021 elections after running as a scattered group. The two candidates who ran on its behalf did not make it past the first round.
An anonymous source told L’Orient Le-Jour that former BBA president Melhem Khalaf, who is affiliated with Oct. 17 and made a resounding victory in 2019, was recently approached by several lawyers who asked him to run for the president’s seat. Khalaf, who is currently an MP, refused the offer, despite the absence of a law prohibiting him from holding both offices.
The current council includes three women: Maya Zeghrini, Mayssam Younes Skaff and Maya Shehab, a record in BBA history. This time, no women are running.
With political parties supporting various candidates, negotiations are currently underway. Despite this, the backing of political parties is not a guarantee of victory, with independent voters playing a significant role in the election results.
For many, professional criteria and personal sympathies take precedence over political affiliation. Having excellent individual relationships with several candidates, many of the lawyers are facing a difficult choice.
After many months of preparation, the campaigns are now in full swing. The cards will be shuffled and reshuffled until polling day on Nov. 19.
This article was originally published in French in L'Orient Le-Jour. Translation by Joelle El Khoury.