Two newly elected Lebanese MPs, including an activist who pledged to fight corruption, lost their seats in parliament on Thursday following an appeals process before the country’s constitutional council.
Ramy Finge, a dentist and pro-democracy activist from the northern city of Tripoli, was among 13 independent candidates who won seats in Lebanon’s legislative elections last May, toppling opponents from Lebanon’s mainstream parties.
The decision by Lebanon’s Constitutional Council to revoke his seat follows an appeal that the initial vote count in his favor was inaccurate. The council overturned Finge’s victory and returned his seat to longtime opponent and lawmaker Faisal Karami.
Karami is a close ally of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militant group and Syrian President Bashar Assad. Thursday’s council decision adds another lawmaker to a Hezbollah-backed cross-party coalition.
In the Lebanese political system, opponents who run against a candidate can then appeal to the council. Local and international election monitors say they have documented instances of fraud in the May elections, as well as vote-buying and sometimes violence.
The decision comes as Lebanon’s newly elected – but still deeply divided – parliament was unable to elect a new president after President Michel Aoun’s term ended last month.
Finge backed Michel Mouawad for president, a candidate backed by mainstream parties close to the United States and Arab Gulf countries and a staunch opponent of Hezbollah.
The tiny Mediterranean nation of Lebanon is in the throes of an economic crisis that has impoverished around three-quarters of its population of 6 million, and a political crisis that has left it without a president and only a caretaker government with limited functions.
In May, Finge told The Associated Press that he hoped to “dismantle this corrupt ruling class” in parliament and, alongside other independent counterparts, lift Lebanon out of its economic quagmire.
Mark Daou, another independent parliamentarian, paid tribute to Finge after his impeachment and described him in a tweet as a “responsible and serious representative”.
“We will be by your side and stick together on all fronts,” Daou said.
The constitutional council also overthrew Firas Salloum, a lawmaker from northern Lebanon and the country’s Alawite minority, on Thursday. He was replaced by pro-reform candidate Haidar Nasser, who appealed after the elections.
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