Lebanon: Presidential Elections Debate Continues

Yesterday, November 22, was officially Lebanon’s Independence Day. Today is the constitutional deadline for the election of a new president of the republic. After several postponements, parliament is expected to assemble today, November 23, to elect a new president. It is hoped that postponing the elections till the last minute will give the opposing parties ample time to reach a concession on a new president. That has not happened yet. Many countries are now involved in this political event. The involvement and interference of so many countries has prompted some bloggers to question Lebanon’s independence. As for the election, bloggers reflections range from optimistic and pessimistic analysis of what is happening and what is expected to the effect of all this on the average Lebanese citizen.

Starting with this optimistic note from Lebanese Inner Circle who sees that the ongoing negotiations taking place between opposing parties will have a positive effect on the country in the long run:

Discussions between the Opposition and the Government is still going strong. This observer feels ongoing collaboration will truly be very helpful on the long term, regardless of the final decision on a candidate’s name this Friday.
With the last crucial two days ahead in the hope that it would probably conclude a two year struggle in Lebanon, and settle for ‘normal’ progress.

On the other hand, David Kenner writes that a consensus president risks perpetuating the deadlock of Lebanese politics:

On the major issues of the day — the international tribunal, Syrian influence in Lebanon, Hezbollah's weapons — he can be expected to do nothing at all. That is, after all, why he is a consensus candidate. The “consensus” is to do nothing.

What about the average Lebanese? How is the election affecting them? Liliane has some answers:

Many people are delaying big purchases such as apartments or cars till after the elections. Others are postponing payments of monthly bills or installments till the end of the month. One case I've heard is postponing a wedding and buying furniture for their house. I personally postponed buying a ticket to a concert till next week.

It may seem that the Lebanese are equally split into two opposing groups in this political deadlock. But Abu Muqawama explains that they are actually split into three. With the third group made up of people who are sick and tired of the on-going political bickering:

Abu Muqawama mentioned polls showing the Lebanese population evenly divided between the ruling March 14th coalition and the Hizbollah-led opposition. While that's true, that doesn't tell the whole story. A growing number of Lebanese are simply sick and tired of the bull%$#@ and don't support either faction. They just want a responsible government that will go about the people's business without all the patronage networks and infighting that usually accompanies what passes for “governance” in Lebanon.

Antoun Issa starts his post by criticizing Lebanese politicians and the time it is taking them to solve their presidential election issues and then elaborates on the positions of the various national and international factions involved:

I think the world is getting sick of waiting, as are the Lebanese people. This has dragged on for far too long. Lebanese politicians have a habit of embarrassing the country in front of the world's eyes, but this is simply beyond ridiculous.

Bech writes about the clerical power in Lebanon and about why all diplomatic efforts can not solve the issue of electing a new president without returning to the major religious figures:

If we step back for a moment and try to think about this, you may agree that it is kind of weird. How come all these virtuoso politicians that have been through so much history, how come all the diplomatic initiatives involved from west to east cannot solve a problem that a few monks living a somewhat ascetic life in Bkerke can? You'll tell me, this is the confessional system, the respect of religious authority, the legitimacy they inspire, etc But I would say these are vague answers at best. I am pretty damn sure that most politicians do not have transcendental respect for the views of the clerics, and even if there are some that do, why is it that everyone including Aoun who claim to ‘reject confessionalism’ find it necessary to ‘play by the rules'?

McDara has an Independence Day post with a list of headlines showing how much foreign involvement there is in the upcoming election:

In honour of Lebanese Independence I want to post some of the headlines which just show how independent Lebanon is and how much its leaders their responsibilities.

Abu Kais criticizes foreign involvement in Lebanon which he describes as unconstitutional and detrimental to the independence of Lebanon:

There is nothing more revolting that the sight of 4 European diplomats begging a crazy politician to withdraw his candidacy for the presidency. Not only is it unconstitutional for foreigners to try to convince a candidate to call it quits, but these efforts are backfiring on the parliament's majority. In one week, Aoun moved from being an irrelevant megalomaniac and Hizbullah's cover into a major player, prompting his equally crazy supporters to predict the exact time of his election on Friday. The diplomacy of begging boosted his self-importance and weakened the position of both March 14 and Nabih Berri, whom the French ironically entrusted with reaching a compromise with Hariri.

Jeha goes back in time and takes a look at Lebanese generals and the presidential elections:

As I hear Lotsa talk about lists, candidates, paper maneuvers… I like to pause a little, and look back at the country’s past. Back when similar (though lower level) turmoil was averted with the rise of the Shehabis… The Lebanese elite is scared of them, but to most people, they evoke a golden age.

Across the Bay writes an analysis of the Syrian involvement in the elections and the alternatives for the opposition in the case of no election:

Stalemate is the name of the game.
The net result of events up to this point is that the Syrians and Hezbollah are just as stuck as everyone else.
The Syrians put forth the following equation: Michel Edde (possibly for two years to keep Aoun on board) or Army commander Michel Suleiman (or possibly, a military takeover).
This indicates Syria's inability to impose things as it could in the past.

On rumors, vacuum management and the possibility of another postponement of the election session, here's what Beirut Spring says:

Much of what is being said and written in Lebanon is more likely to be rumors than not. For example, each and every one of the Presidential hopefuls has received many calls to “congratulate him” for “the good news”.
But one bit of information seems to be more leak than rumor. It is the statement by many politicians that tomorrow’s voting session “could” be postponed.

Finally, Bob posts about the dangers of waiting for the last minute before holding the elections:

Once again the Lebanese, and their respective foreign patrons, cannot find an agreement until the very last moment, when they are all standing on the edge of a dark tortuous and bottomless abyss…
Edges are fraught with dangerous problems, any misstep and you are in free fall, and once you are on an edge it is very, very difficult to get back safely.


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