BEIRUT (TSTIME) — Two newly elected Lebanese lawmakers, including an activist who pledged to fight corruption, lost their parliamentary seats on Thursday following an appeal before the country’s constitutional council.
Ramy Finge, a dentist and pro-democracy activist from the northern city of Tripoli, was one of 13 independent candidates to win seats in last May’s Lebanese parliamentary elections, overthrowing opponents of Lebanese’s traditional parties.
The Lebanese Constitutional Council’s decision to revoke its seat followed an appeal alleging that the initial count of votes in his favor was incorrect. The council revoked Finge’s victory and returned his seat to his opponent and longtime legislator Faisal Karami.
Karami is a close ally of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militant group and Syrian President Bashar Assad. Thursday’s council decision adds a new lawmaker to a Hezbollah-backed multi-party coalition.
Under the Lebanese political system, opponents who speak out against a candidate can later appeal to the council. Local and international election observers say they have documented instances of fraud in May’s elections, as well as vote buying and, at times, violence.
The decision comes as Lebanon’s newly elected – but still deeply divided – parliament has been unable to elect a new president after President Michel Aoun’s term expired last month.
Finge has supported Michel Mouawad for president, a candidate backed by traditional parties close to the United States and the Gulf Arab states and a staunch opponent of Hezbollah.
The small Mediterranean nation of Lebanon is in the throes of an economic crisis that has impoverished about three-quarters of its population of 6 million, and a political crisis that has left it without a president and only a transitional government with limited functions.
In May, Finge told The The Singapore Time he hoped to “dismantle this corrupt ruling class” in parliament, and work with other independent counterparts to pull Lebanon out of its economic mire.
Mark Daou, another independent MP, paid tribute to Finge after his resignation, describing him as a “responsible and serious representative” in a tweet.
“We will stand by your side and stick together on all fronts,” said Daou.
The constitutional council also dethroned Firas Salloum, a legislator from northern Lebanon and the country’s Alawite minority, on Thursday. He was replaced by reformist candidate Haidar Nasser, who appealed after the election.