By Nadine Abou el Khoudoud, Communications Intern
On Tuesday February 15, 2022, the AUB Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International affairs (IFI) held a webinar to present and discuss results of a recent poll on Lebanon from a multidisciplinary approach. The poll, which was conducted by the Zogby research Services and sponsored by the American Task Force, assessed citizen’s confidence in the current government, their attitudes towards Lebanon’s falling economic crisis, and their perception of the 2022 electoral elections.
Titled “In a falling State: what do Lebanese want,” the online discussion hosted Dr. James Zogby ….
The webinar started with opening remarks by Dr. Fadlo R. Khuri, AUB President, who considered that this poll speaks on behalf of people who have been exposed to horrendous crises but portrays their convergence toward demanding an end to corruption and hoping for good governance, accountability, and transparency.
“Lebanon’s greatest Resources are its people, and these people are not being exported rather they are being actively exiled,” Khuri said, adding that the poll flags alarming and increasing segments of society with no access to basic needs and services. He explained that AUB has been addressing these contingencies for years and today intensifies its efforts to restore and build not just buildings, but institutions, values, and the will to prosper.
James Zogby presented the results of the polls, which was conducted in September 2021, and where 869 people participated.
Results indicated that 9 out of 10 people living in Lebanon are currently experiencing worse conditions compared to five years ago, doubling the number of people living in poverty. Moreover, more than one third of participants had no access to food on different occasions, while one out of five often spent the day without having any meal. Additionally, two third of the population cannot afford meat with their current salaries.
Poll results also indicated that two out of three would immigrate if given the opportunity due to the economic collapse and their lack of trust in the government. Given the lack of confidence in the government, 97 percent of the respondents said it’s important to have a full investigation on the Beirut port explosion. Participants also considered corruption the most important issue in a country.
The poll also revealed that the October 2019 uprising was a reason to believe that change will happen in the upcoming electoral elections. 60 percent of participants expressed confidence that the political change needed in Lebanon will be met, and two out of three said they will vote for new alternative parties in the upcoming elections. Moreover, three out of five participants reject the Taef agreement and want to adopt a new constitutional model of governance.
In terms of weapons control, the findings suggested that most of the sects, based on the survey sample, consider that weapons should be under the control of the Lebanese Armed Forces. The majority also considered that the resistance should be controlled by LAF.
On an International spectrum, France was the only country participants considered that Lebanon should strengthen its ties with. In addition, the results showed that the majority of surveyed wanted to cut ties with KSA and Syria.
Commenting on the results presented, Dr. Brigitte Khoury, Associate Professor and Clinical Psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry and Director of the Arab Regional Center for research and training at AUB, explained that the numbers could be worse if the research were to be conducted today. With that, she stated that there is a careful optimism among the Lebanese. Therefore, if political change was not met, she “fears that the people will lose their power and control especially if there is no justice or a sound judiciary.” Khoury explained that the Lebanese already experience a sense of depression and loss of control.
“A country that lacks social justice, human rights, democracy, equality, and equity cannot have a mentally healthy population where individuals can live happily and with dignity and this is what the Lebanese deserve,” Khoury ended.
Following Khoury’s analysis, Jamil Mouawad, Instructor at AUB and Senior Fellow at the Arab Reform Initiative, expressed his deep concerns and fear because the judiciary system and the military system, which are most trusted government branches, are also the most corrupted.
Mouawad concluded that the rising alterative groups from the October 2019 uprising “lack a history background” and should have a “political plan” and that polls should be done regularly to stay up to date with the population’s needs.