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Lebanese Voters Want Change. Few Expect It.

May 3, 2018

That hampers independent candidates like Mr. Chamas, who served in Parliament years ago but was expelled in 1994 because of allegations of drug smuggling, which he denies. (He says the accusation was cooked up by a powerful Syrian politician who was out to get him.)

In the interview, he said he had bought billboards, spent $15,000 for an hourlong appearance on one television station and agreed to pay $25,000 for an hour on another. But when he turned down a morning show, he was offered evening slots that cost twice as much. An hourlong, prime time interview with a popular anchor cost $80,000, he said, more than he could afford.

During the interview, his phone rang. It was a voter asking Mr. Chamas how much he would pay for a vote. Mr. Chamas said he did not buy votes, thanked the caller and hung up.

Lebanese Voters Want Change. Few Expect It.Lebanese Voters Want Change. Few Expect It.

It was unclear whether the caller was seeking the highest bidder for his ballot, a common practice in Lebanon, or secretly recording Mr. Chamas’s answer to use in an attack post on social media.

Mr. Chamas blasted the political class that has long led the country as self-serving and corrupt.

“They have been ruling for 30 years, with corruption and without providing services,” he said. “There is no electricity, no roads, no economy. So who is responsible?”

That view is a popular one, so the big parties have adopted a similar message.

“The biggest problem in the country is corruption,” said Ali Moqdad, an incumbent from Hezbollah who is also running in Mr. Chamas’s district.

When asked what he had done against corruption since entering Parliament in 2005, Mr. Moqdad responded, “Nothing.” He blamed Lebanon’s sectarian politics for making such change difficult.

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