The breakthrough of independent candidates in Sunday’s legislative elections is unprecedented.

Among those from the 2019 protest movement, Firas Hamdane, the 35-year-old Druze lawyer and activist, and Elias Jarade, a 55-year-old Christian eye surgeon.

Their feat: they succeeded in winning seats acquired for three decades from the allies of the powerful Shiite Muslim armed movement Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

In Mr. Hamdane’s family home surrounded by olive and pine trees in the village of Kfeir, friends and relatives have been there every day since the election. Some respond to continuous phone calls, others remind the chosen one of his media interviews, and relatives worried about his health ask him to rest.

Mr. Hamdan, he relishes his victory.

“To all those who participated in the demonstrations and suffered repression by the political class for years, I tell them that one of the victims is now in Parliament to carry the voice of those who are outside and to demand their rights.”

An allusion to himself.

“My candidacy for the legislative elections is the result of a journey that began on the first day of the demonstrations against power (…) until my injury” during the protests of 2020.

– “Rebuilding the state” –

Mr. Hamdan participated in the “revolution”, the unprecedented protest launched in October 2019 to demand the departure of a political class unchanged for decades and accused of corruption, inertia and incompetence.

The movement was suppressed but continued for a few months as the country sank into an unprecedented socio-economic crisis, blamed on the ruling class which had hitherto remained deaf to international calls for reforms needed for any financial aid.

On August 4, 2020, huge quantities of ammonium nitrate stored without precautionary measures at the port of Beirut exploded, killing more than 200 people. This drama is largely attributed to the negligence of the leaders.

Protests will break out to shout down power. They will also be suppressed by shooting shots or rubber bullets according to NGOs.

Firas Hamdan was also among the protesters. He was seriously injured and had open-heart surgery. But doctors couldn’t extract the shrapnel from his heart.

“We led the battle (…) with the objective of restoring the rights of citizens, showing that the opposition exists in southern Lebanon and breaking the political hegemony. And we succeeded.”

According to him, it is necessary “to rebuild the rule of law” to “restore confidence in the country which has become a country of death and migration”.

Many Lebanese have chosen exile after the crisis marked by a plummeting national currency, stifling banking restrictions and the impoverishment of the population.

– “Hope, after despair” –

Firas Hamdane’s father, retired brigadier general Ismaïl Hamdane, does not hide his pride. “Leaders need to understand that change has begun.”

A few kilometers further, in the village of Ibl Al-Saqi, Elias Jarade’s family takes care of welcoming relatives and friends in the house full of flowers.

The new elected official was not there because he was taking care of his patients in Beirut.

A graduate of Harvard in the United States, Mr. Jarade divides his time between Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.

Between two operations, he answers questions from AFP.

“A lot of people have asked me: ‘you are a well-known doctor with integrity, what do you do?'” he said in reference to his candidacy. “As if politics were not reserved for professionals and honest people!”

A father of two daughters, Mr Jarade hopes he can give the younger generation “hope after… despair”.

“We are the revolution and a model. We say to everyone: free yourselves” from the traditional parties.

Despite this victory, the two deputies are aware of the difficulty of their task.

“We are not from political or wealthy families, we are ordinary people who work and live in dignity”, says Firas Hamdane, one of whose ambitions is to be able to put an end to impunity, which is very widespread in the country.

His colleague Elias Jarade agrees. “We may not be a lifeline, but we will create a ray of hope (…) to build the Lebanon we dream of.”