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LEBANON: AUB student elections mirror political tensions in the country

December 3, 2008 |  6:22 am

Tensions among Lebanon's feuding politicians do not only reverberate through the halls of the country's governmental offices. Student elections at universities have also become a gauge of the nation's heated political atmosphere, especially as Lebanon approaches next year's critical vote for parliament members.   

Last week's polls at American University of Beirut were no exception. Normally, one would think that student elections are about making life on campus more pleasant or campaigning for lower tuition fees.

Instead, the AUB vote mirrored Lebanon's divisions, with two lists of candidates representing on one side, supporters the Western-backed political faction in the country, and on the other, the followers of Hezbollah and its allies.

This week, the official results of AUB's student elections were announced.

Students at Work, who ran as supporters of the Western-backed March 14 coalition, and who were recognized by yellow gilets usually worn by workers, won the majority of seats. Hezbollah supporters, who wore red shirts, lost.

Campus security was tight during the elections. Army troops gathered on the surrounding street to stop trouble caused by many friends, family and supporters of candidates who attempted to crash the campus.

"I cannot express how proud I am," said Nayla Idriss, a political science student who supports the Students at Work list. "We launched this year's campaign with strong determination for winning and here we are, we did it. We proved to everyone that March 14 rules."

Division among Lebanese students did not stop independent candidates and international students from running. Becky Lee Kats, an American graduate student, along with other international peers, also took her chance at winning the elections. 

"Although we were aware of the fact that elections at AUB are political-based and our chances of winning might be low, representation was our aim. We wanted everyone to know that there exists an international student body with potential for change," Kats said.

-- Khaled Hijab in Beirut

Photo: Students cheering at the American University of Beirut's elections on Wednesday. Credit: Office of Information and Public Relations, American University of Beirut.