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Lebanon: Analyzing the By–Election Results

Are you interested in finding out the different interpretations for the results of the by–elections held last week in Lebanon? Then you have to read this week’s round up of the Lebanese blogosphere.

By–elections results

Many bloggers discussed and reported on the by–elections held last week. The elections themselves were a point of controversy. While some saw them as illegal because they were being held without the signature of the President, others believed that they should be held with only one candidate and no contestants since they are supposed to occupy parliamentary seats left vacant due to the assassinations. Some of the parties in the opposition took part in the elections while others abstained. The elections were held and the results are out and can be found on any news site. The reactions to the way the elections were held and to the results were diverse. Some of these reactions are mentioned here:

Jamal’s Propaganda looked at the aftermath of the elections and highlighted what he saw as an ugly manifestation of racism and sectarianism in the speeches that followed the elections and the declaration of the results:

In a country where there is a constant battle of what is and isn’t true, and who is true and who is truly an inconvenience. Yesterday was a full display of the true nastiness of our society. Lebanese raceo-sectarianism reached unprecedented lows; which says much considering this country was a stage for a fifteen year bloody sectarian war.

It wasn't just Amin Gemayyel who in keeping up with family tradition found a new group of people to direct his hate at. When your hate mongering towards Syrians, Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, Sunnis, Shia runs out of steam; a new channel must be created. Also, why let the people of the southern suburbs bear all the brunt of condescending speech, let the intruders of the northern suburbs share the load. So take “them” out, and Gemayyel is victorious in the Metn Mountains where the true Christians reside. Sadly, many of the electoral reform scenarios circulated would encourage the Gemayyel school of thought.

Two of the bloggers posted interviews with the two prominent opposition candidates who were contesting the pro-government candidates in the elections:

Journalist Taylor Long interviewed Beirut opposition candidate Ibrahim Halabi for the Lebanese Political Journal. The interview included the reason why Halabi is running against the pro–government candidate as well as the inner workings of his campaign and of the political party (Harkat as-Sha’ab) of which he is a member:

Given the immense amount of coverage of the Metn by-elections compared to the dearth of coverage of the Beirut elections, this article presents a unique glimpse into opposition operations.

Harald Doornbos posts an interview with Kamil Khoury, the opposition candidate who won the elections in the Metn area of Lebanon. The interview took place before the elections were held:

Days before, I spoke to Kamil Khoury, the candidate in Metn for the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM). The FPM is the party of general Michel Aoun, a Christian leader who is anti-government and works closely together with the radical Shi'ite movement Hezbollah. Mr. Khoury runs against Amin Gemayel, also a Christian and a former president of Lebanon. Mr. Gemayel is pro-government, his Falange party works closely together with Sunni Muslims of the Future Party of Rafiq Hariri, who was killed in 2005. Amin Gemayel is the father of the late [assassinated] Pierre Gemayel.

Ms Levantine began an article by drastically criticizing the seemingly unprofessional reporting of the Lebanese political pundits:

Allow me to start with a disclaimer: the subtle intricacies of Lebanese politics bore me to tears. The learned analysis that our local pundits come up with on a regular basis are more suited to a village square than to a civilized nation, which admittedly we are not yet. Still, even the casual observer must be amazed by the numerous comments following the epic Metn by-election.

Then Ms Levantine carried on his analysis of the elections by looking at what projects and future plans (or lack of) that the opposition (March 8) or pro–government (March 14) have (or have not) to offer:

This is where Mr. Aoun and his Tayyar [opposition] are doing a better job than March 14. You can call it populism, demagoguery, whatever you choose, the reality is undeniable. In Lebanon we have deep structural problems: lack of institutions, corruption, poverty, official mismanagement, collapsing environment, no redistribution of wealth… The Tayyar came up with what my good friend Abu Ali once called a Mickey Mouse program. March 14 came up with…well, nothing at all.

Les Politiques discusses in details what she sees as the reasons behind the loss of the pro–government in the Metn by–elections. She sees this as a statement that the Christians are rejecting their diminishing role in Lebanese politics:

Aoun is accused by March 14th of being pro-Syrian because he is against them. It is only since 2005 that March 14th like to describe themselves as anti-Syrian and everybody else as pro-Syrian. “You are either with us or against us”. Some other critics of Michel Aoun have also pointed to the fact that his alliance with Hezbollah, an Islamist party, was going to loose him votes. However, there is a reality on the ground felt by Christians every day. The Gemayel and Lebanese Forces alliance with Hariri is diminishing the role of Christians in Lebanese Politics. Christians in the March 14th movement are not even playing second fiddle to Hariri. They have lost the support of their community for blatant corruption, special interest politics, and political incoherence. In a country used to frequent shifting in political alliances, they became the champions of the process to the point they are unable to make their moves intelligible for the community; allied to Syrians one day and then to their enemies the day after.

Marxist From Lebanon sees that Aoun lost plenty of his supporters since his return from exile in 2005 and that the results of the elections are terrible for him even though his party’s candidate won the seat in the parliament:

The results of Matn are disastrous for Aoun. Now, he can’t totally rely on himself to sweep elections, rather he has to depend on ex-Syrian officials (like the Mafioso Michel Murr and the SSNP) to win. Amin Gemayel’s stubbornness to promote the traditional logic of Christian glory (inherited from his father Pierre Gemayel) caused Aoun to lose such a number. Amin Gemayel for starters had a lot of factors to assist him. For starters, he was the perfect candidate to be nominated by March 14th Alliance because he was the father of a recent “Christian Martyr” (his son) and the brother of the Christian popular, the butcher Bashir Gemayel (another Christian Martyr). Moreover, Aoun’s blunders and over self-confidence has shoved a lot of supporters to his side since the ‘Change’ he promised didn’t materialize in Matn, specially with his alliance to the most powerful figurehead Michel Murr, actually Michel Murr was second in command of the coalition which Aoun himself spearheaded: Reform and Change. No change occurred, rather his blunt alliance with the pro-Syrian Social Nationalist Party and Baathi Party allowed 14th of March to capitalize on it and promoted Aoun as a “Syrian Dummy”. Furthermore, the logic of 14th of March that only a 14th of Marcher would inherit a parliamentary seat of their assassinated martyr paid off, because a lot of voters came to vote as “No to assassinations”, and henceforth Aoun was contributing to justify the assassination of the politicians of the opposing camp (so far all assassinations were directed against 14th of March figures on the political level). This campaign pushed the seculars in general to vote against Aoun.

Rampurple simply vents her anger at both parties involved in the elections and asks the questions that many Lebanese asked during the days preceding and following the elections:

Now that the elections are over, I can vent out.
This is my own personal, non-political, ignorant opinion.
I think it’s extremely funny how March 14th claim they are all righteous and stuff, and yet manage to break constitutional laws and have an election! I think it is even funnier how March 8th, who do believe the current government is unconstitutional, run for elections although the cabinet has been halted for the past 8 months by them.

Like I said this is my own opinion on the matter. I always knew the politicians were this low, I just never expected the Lebanese people, who people claim to be one of the most sophisticated people on this planet, can so easily follow this tidal wave.

When the elections were over and the results were out, both sides claimed that they won. Stuck in Beirut captures this point to write about the upcoming presidential elections:

In typical Lebanese fashion, both sides are claiming victory after the local elections in Maten. […]
Furthermore, neither side really has the final say on who the new President will be. That decision lies outside of the Lebanese borders and circles of influence.

Blacksmiths of Lebanon wrote a lengthy analysis of the election results which included a critique of both local and foreign journalists’ report and interpretation of the election results:

For the past two to three years a trend has emerged in some American (and more generally, western) media outlets that has sought to (over-)compensate for those news agencies’ complacency and/or complicity in taking their nation(s) to war. As it relates to Lebanon this trend has consisted, for the most part, in the application of a Seymoure-esque narrative, usually peddled by the same Baath regime PR-reps that fed Hersh his spoonfuls of disinformation, painting the current government as weak and unpopular, barely holding on to power save for the grace (or lack thereof) of a Bush administration intent on pushing its plan for a New Middle East, no matter what the cost!

It is a narrative that is perfectly suited to emerging social and political trends amongst those journalists’ domestic audiences, but which, sadly, has nothing to do with realities on the ground in Lebanon.

Arab Democracy explains why there is disappointment with the Cedar revolution after two years and carries on to write about the appeals of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) mentioned above as one of the parties of the opposition that took part in the elections:

As the last Syrian soldier departed Lebanon and the media hype began to wind down, the realities on the ground began to unfold. The truth is that the new democracy we have been offered is not in touch with the aspirations of all Lebanese and oddly resembles the one we had before. The truth is that we are governed by tribal leaders that have used and abused our Constitution and judiciary system in the name of special interests and political sustainability and are supported by a press that has independently chosen to pledge allegiance to one party over the other. The truth is that Lebanon continues to be a collection of mini-states. The truth is we are as corrupt today as we were before 2005. The inconvenient truth, to quote Al Gore, is that Lebanon’s Cedar revolution is hollow at best. […]
The Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) is perhaps the best example of a new untraditional player in the Lebanese political scene judging from the fierce political battles that occurred in many regions of Mount Lebanon and the North where this party was running.

On the other hand, Streets of Beirut writes an analysis on the upcoming presidential elections and about the prospective candidates from the point of views of the opposition and of the pro–government. He states his position on the side of the pro–government stating why Aoun should not be a candidate for presidency.

Why should eyebrows be raised? Because Aoun is no longer the Christian leader. It is almost impossible to compete with his voting record when the last elections he had back in May 2005 got him over 70 percent of the Christian vote. When Aoun left March 14 back in 2005, he took all the Christians with him. Now, the Christians are back where they belong, but Aoun is no where to be seen.

2 comments

  • Daniel Sagherian

    Reading through the comments regarding the Metn by-elections, certain important observations need to be added:
    -Nobody won but intolerance and militia-era fascism.
    -Lebanese Christians still cannot apprehend how difficult a position they are in.
    -Hatred and racism are still part of the Lebanese albeit Christian dictionary.
    -While we heard words of condemnations from the President and the Speaker of the House, no single word was uttered from the Prime Minister, or any March 14 leader, apologetic to the hatred directed at the Armenian Sect, just because they democratically voted.

  • Dear Daniel,

    You are stating the obvious. However, I am quite sure that the young generation of Christians in Lebanon and also my generation, those who grew up during the civil war are taking some distance with this racist sectarian mindset. Only some Chritian leaders, as well as our dear patriarch still hold to it because they think political gain for the short term. In my opinion, one can only find the strongest sectarian racist mentality in Lebanon today mostly among sunnis and that’s because of the following factors:
    -They are becoming a high profile sect both on the regional and international level, thanks to Bush and his close association with Saudi Arabia;
    -They have a powerful leader willing to play both the national and the regional sectarian games;
    – They are not ready to share some of their old and newly gained power on the Lebanese political scene;

    While on the other side you have two communities, Christians and Shias who either have lost some of their political power, like Chritians, or asking for more, like Shias, and these two communities are willing to discuss. Now I don’t understand why on earth Gemayel is playing the sunni sectarian game, because in the end it is not in the interests of Christians, but it is probably in his own personal interests. It was the saqme with our 15 years civil war, it was not in the interests of Christians, but the leaders fought it anyway. It is time we make them accountable for these tragic decisions…And I think the Metn vote against Gemayel was also about accountability.

    I also want to assure you that for me, a Lebanese Christian Maronite, I consider my fellow Armenians as my brothers and sisters and an integral part of Lebanese society. We both went throught the fear of ethnic massacres that took place toward the end of the 19th and the beginning of the twentieth century amid the political instability in the Ottoman empire, even though Armenians were actually massacred and exiled, bearing a heavier price for this tragedy, it is our tragedy all. Gemayel seems to have forgotten this fact. To substract himself from more than a century old solidarity with our Armenian brothers and sisters is to put himself against his own community. So there must be personal gain for him in this, but definitely not for his entire community…

    On a larger scale, most Lebanese leaders from all sects have, time and again, proved to be tyrants, out of phase with the aspirations of their people and their community. The one who should apologize to the Armenian community, is Hariri himself, dark lord of the new sectarian strife…and not only his puppets

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