Law change was meant to make room for political plurality but old traditions of patronage are hard to break down.
Nine years and two collapsed governments since the last election, Lebanon goes to the polls on Sunday with leaders touting a new beginning for a country bedevilled by debt and dysfunction, but voters fearing more of the same.
The long-awaited parliamentary election had been hailed as a potential turning point for a state beset by decades of war, a turbulent domestic scene and a neighbouring crisis that has posed new threats.
As polling day has drawn nearer, however, it has become increasingly likely that the result will reaffirm the status quo of a powerful, elite-run patronage network with entrenched channels of influence.
For opponents of prime minister Saad Hariri’s government, this spells trouble. “The country is going through serious social, economic and political challenges that will translate into disastrous consequences if the same elite runs the country, with the same mindset that it did the last 30 years,” said Gilbert Doumit, a candidate in Beirut for a new list, Kulna Watani.