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Is Lebanon abandoning sectarian politics?

The results of municipal elections in Lebanon and the persistence of protesters against government corruption in Iraq may point to a shift in the two countries' traditional sectarian-based politics.
A poster depicting Sunni politician Ashraf Rifi (C) is seen among posters of Lebanese candidates that were running in Tripoli's municipal and mayoral elections, Lebanon, May 30, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Ibrahim - RTX2EV4O

The disaffected have expressed their discontent in recent municipal polls in Lebanon and in the streets of Iraq, two countries plagued by sectarianism and lingering threats of terrorism. Dominated by partisan politics, both have witnessed the rise of a cross-sectarian social movement critical of the countries' aging and out-of-touch kleptocrats. In Lebanon, municipal elections in May registered a decline in support for traditional parties, while in Iraq, protests denouncing rampant corruption in government have shaken the country. Is there hope for a new, political third way in the Levant?

Lebanon wrapped up the final round of municipal elections on May 29. In Tripoli, the capital of the north, a list headed by Ashraf Rifi, a former Future Movement-affiliated justice minister, won the majority of the city’s seats against a coalition list backed by Sunni heavyweights, including billionaires and former Prime Ministers Najib Mikati and Saad Hariri, billionaire Mohammad Safadi and the powerful Karami family.

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