A different kind of spotlight. Lebanese celebs trade glitter for politics
Former model Nathalie Fadlallah has taken up the issue of women’s rights, TV host Tony Khalife surprised everyone with his secular positions, and journalist May Chidiac raised the banner of “Lebanon: Sovereign and Independent.” The celebrity-candidates of Lebanese elections have found their token issues, but will they be enough to sway voters?
George Kurdahi, host of the Arabic “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire,” was confident when he announced to Al-Akhbar his candidacy on the Free Patriotic Movement’s list. Of all the celebrities running in the Lebanese parliamentary elections, he was one of the first to go public with his political aspirations.
Kurdahi has become known for his political positions and support for the Lebanese Resistance. He has expressed opposition to the direction of the Syrian protest movement, paying dearly for his positions. Today, he is running for the Maronite seat in the Keserwan district in Mount Lebanon.
There is no doubt that Kurdahi’s celebrity status has boosted his popularity. If he wins, he has quite a few hopes, such as “creating a new Lebanon for all its people at all levels.”
It has been confirmed that Maya Terro, winner of the al-Jadeed reality TV show “al-Zaim” (the Leader), will be running for the Sunni seat in the third electoral district of the Beirut governorate.
Terro spoke enthusiastically to Al-Akhbar about her political program. She said she will focus on raising awareness among citizens to assume personal responsibility for their actions. One of her priorities will be to shed light on the role of people with disabilities.
Celebrity TV chef Ramzi Choueiri, who is running for the Orthodox seat in the Metn district, is promoting his platform of “Better Food Safety in Lebanon.”
The chef said that his central aim is not to win, but to increase awareness of certain issues. “Given the political steamroller that governs Lebanese elections, I do not stand a chance to join parliament especially since I’m running as an independent without any political backing.”
Journalist Turned Politician
“I have a cause and I have my convictions, which I will never sell or abandon,” said journalist May Chidiac. She’s running for the Maronite seat in the Keserwan district of Mount Lebanon. In an interview, she insisted that she is not running out of a desire to get the perks and privileges of being an MP, but “to serve the cause of a sovereign, free and independent Lebanon.”
“I support [parliamentary] quotas for women,” she said. “But I grew up in a home with no men after my my father and brother’s deaths. [W]omen have proven their abilities as leaders capable of reaching the highest posts. That is why my first concern is Lebanon and cutting the country off from all ties to foreign projects. My motto is to look forward and forgive.”
But what are her chances of victory? Chidiac said that she did not run an ad campaign. “Everyone knows my convictions and how much I care about Lebanon,” she said.
Politics is a Matter of Taste
Former model Nathalie Fadlallah chose to run as an independent candidate for the Maronite seat in Tripoli because she was unable to run in her region of Keserwan. She explained that she does not consider herself a stranger to Tripoli and the North.
“My mother is from that area and I spent part of my childhood there,” she said, adding, “I have contributed to many tourism projects in this country, but unfortunately that has not been appreciated.”
About her electoral project, Fadlallah explained, “I will fight for women’s rights, including giving Lebanese women the right to pass on their citizenship to their children, [and] passing laws that protect women against domestic abuse.”
“Secular” Without Borders
“In support of my people in Tripoli, the North, I filed my candidacy for the Maronite seat in that city.” With these words, television host Tony Khalife announced his candidacy in the upcoming elections on Twitter. Following his announcement, his followers increased to 100,000.
He also announced that the goal of his campaign is working to make “Lebanon a country without sectarianism.”
It appears that the election in Tripoli will be a heated one, especially among newcomers from outside the political field who will be competing for the Maronite seat. But who will capture the hearts and minds of voters?
The Smile of the Parliament
“Vote for those who act to entertain you and not those who deceive you,” said Lebanese comedian and actor Jean Khudair.
In the past, Khudair followed up on his duties as deputy mayor of the town of Alma in the Zgharta district. Today, he is planning to move from representing the Zgharta municipality to representing Lebanon. He explained that he is unaffiliated with any political party and will run as an independent for the Maronite seat in Tripoli.
He is running out of a desire to serve the people because “it is the duty of every actor to be close to people and to feel their pain.”
By Zakia Dirani, Bassem Alhakim