By Dr. Edmond Melhem
The SSNP participated in the elections of 1947 and had candidates in most electorates of Lebanon. All SSNP candidates had one platform formulated by Sa´adeh and his assistants. Members of the Supreme and Executive Councils of the party advised Sa´adeh on electoral policy formulation and campaign.
The SSNP platform was composed of basic political, economic and social principles that aimed to introduce change and reform at all levels. The substantive issue at stake was the independence of Lebanon. The SSNP wanted to make Lebanon’s independence “a reality, not a new type of colonization”. Thus, at the political level, the party’s program stressed the necessity of supplementing the first step of political independence with other steps in order to achieve “true independence”. In this context, Sa´adeh said: “Political independence is built up on national consciousness, national will and economic-socio-political bases. Otherwise it would not be true independence”. Hence, the program detailed the economic and socio-political bases for true independence and the numerous reforms needed in various aspects of life.
The SSNP also wanted to keep Lebanon as a ‘nitaq daman’, i.e., an entity in which its citizens enjoy freedom of speech and thought and the party can work and preach its principles freely. Hence, the five basic principles included in the party electoral program for political reform read as follows:
1) Fighting opportunism and reactionary mentality.
2) Fighting foreign interference in the internal politics of the country.
3) Establishing the responsible representation of the people’s interests through political parties which have nationalist aims and general policies for the public.
4) Abolishing confessional representation and replacing it by nationalist representation.
5) Guaranteeing the freedoms of meeting, expression and opinion.
Other issues revealed in the electoral program of the SSNP were related to Lebanon’s relationship with other Arab states. Two principles were outlined in this regard. The first called for strengthening economic and cultural unity as well as the political ties between Lebanon and the other political states of geographical Syria. The second principle asserted that Lebanon should participate with the other Syrian states in repelling attacks and dangers to any state, and should co-operate with the Arab states through the Arab League.
The elections of 1947, consequently, provided an opportunity for the SSNP to explain its stand on Lebanon. In its electoral campaign, the party confirmed its respect for the existence of Lebanon as an independent state. The party’s electoral program, moreover, addressed the question of Lebanon’s independence and considered it as the most important question. All socio-economic and political issues were discussed in relation to this major question.
The outcome of the elections was disappointing for the SSNP and other political parties. The government was accused of abusing the electoral processes in most constituencies. The opposition published a book in which it documented the government’s electoral abuses, pressure and intimidation. Independent newspapermen and foreign observers joined the opposition in condemning the government. In their article: “Confessionalism and Feudality in Lebanese Politics”, Hess and Bodman give an unequivocal impression that the elections of May 1947 were fraudulent. They stated:
The press of Beirut unanimously exposed and condemned a series of electoral abuses which, it was charged, ranged from the stuffing of ballot boxes to the widespread use of government functionaries in the various electoral districts to influence, and in some cases browbeat, the voters.
The same authors asserted that “the outcry against the alleged abuses was widespread and vociferous, going so far as a refusal by some newspapers to recognize the new Chamber.” However, the alleged abuses were evident in the outcome of the elections. The government won 47 out of the 55 seats. George Britt, a foreign observer, commented: the elections “represented such a sweep for the President that the outcome was to become known as ‘the Puppet Parliament’. The SSNP failed to win any seats despite vigorous campaigning. In his turn, Sa´adeh accused the authorities of ballot rigging to prevent the party from gaining any political foothold.