With the remnants of the trash crisis still visible on the streets of Lebanon’s capital, one campaign group is challenging Beirut’s municipality in elections set to take place next month.
Among the candidates in the 24-member group is former Al Arabiya English journalist Rana Khoury.
“If you really want the garbage crisis to be dealt with seriously, then you have to be in office,” Khoury told Al Arabiya English, “The people who are currently in office are incapable of removing garbage from the streets.”
Beirut Madinati (My city Beirut) – which presents itself as an independent, non-affiliated grassroots organization – believes it has what it takes to push Beirut away from what many Lebanese see as state paralysis and stagnation.
According to Khoury, her past experiences in several newsrooms have helped influenced her decision-making skills, giving her an edge in the election.
“I’ve worked in many news outlets, and what I’ve learnt is to try and maintain a certain critical look on a lot of things, and a certain objective look on a lot of things and try to make up my mind from different point of views,” Khoury said.
Her former colleague at Al Arabiya English believes Khoury’s past works involving Lebanon and it’s current affairs have placed her ahead of the rest.
“I worked with Rana for a year at Al Arabiya English in 2012 and have known her ever since,” said Al Arabiya English senior journalist Eman El-Shenawi
“I had admired her thriving attention to Lebanese politics. She would write timely and enticing news features and blogs on Lebanese current affairs, and always displayed strong news judgement in topics related to the country.”
Khoury stressed the importance of communication, a tool she honed from working as a journalist as well as her current job as a creative director at an ad agency.
“Communication is one of the most important things when you are running for public office; to be able to communicate with voters and not build a wall between you and [them],” she added.
Being a team member was also an important role she perfected while working at the news site, a role she took with her from Al Arabiya English to the elections.
“As a team member, she definitely encouraged creativity and flair. My best wishes go out to Rana as she stands for the elections,” El-Shenawi said.
All take, no give
Lebanon is plagued by government corruption, and its failure to provide basic needs and services to citizens. The country currently sits at a dismal 139 out of 140 countries in terms of waste in government spending, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness index 2015-2016.
“Citizens in Lebanon pay taxes and receive zero services in return and this is the basics of politics!” Khoury said, “People have the right to know where their money is going, where the taxes they are paying are going, why aren’t they receiving any decent services, why are they living in these conditions while they are paying the taxes.”
Khoury and her fellow candidates believe that Beirut Madinati has brought back the discussion to the well-being of the people, a strategy that is seen as essential to keep the city from hitting rock bottom.
“I think it’s a necessary strategy, an honest strategy and the only strategy that could bring Beirut forward,” said Khoury.
‘Far from the people’
The independent campaign says it is people-orientated and transparent, drawing a contrast between itself and the current authorities.
“Today the municipality of Beirut is very far from the people – they don’t have a website, they don’t communicate what they are doing, they are not transparent, they don’t even go on the ground and talk to people to work out the real problems of the city,” the former journalist said.
Apart from eying the municipal elections, the campaign has a back-up plan if it does not win the May poll.
“We will act as a pressure group within the municipalities, we will act as a group that will make sure that Beirut will move forward and not backward,” Khoury said, “we will have eyes and ears on the municipality work and we will make sure to act as a shadow municipality.”