5.8.07

Lebanon's Partial Parliamentary Elections: The Metn's Christians Say 'NO' to March 14th

Amin Gemayel was so afraid of loosing these elections that he adressed a request to the minister of interior asking him to post a public notice about the different titles the voters might add to his name when voting, in order not to invalidate the vote. The interior ministry complied, and it was contrary to the Lebanese electoral law.

Mr. Gemayel listed on the public notice his different titles, former deputy, former president of Lebanon, sheikh, and how might the voter designates him on the ballot according to these titles:

His excellency the president Amin Al-Gemayel;
His excellency the president sheikh Amin Al-Gemayel;
The president Amin Al-Gemayel;
The president sheikh Amin Al-Gemayel;
The sheikh Amin Al-Gemayel;
Amin Pierre Al-Gemayel;
Amin Al-Gemayel.

But that did not prevent him from loosing the battle for a doctor*, Camille Mansour Khoury, who is quite new to Politics, who is not former president, and who is not a former sheikh. And there are more titles Camille Khoury doesn't have and which Gemayel has; former warlord, former Syrian collaborator, former Israeli collaborator, and an ally to the Sunni-Saudi dominated March 14th's government.

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 freqent shifting in political alliances, they beacme 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 ennemies the day after. However these leaders are acting like their fathers, grand'fathers, and grand grand'fathers, as if the people of Lebanon were going to vote along sectarian lines for the Zaim (local leader of the community), without accountability. And so Hariri, in his alliance with them, has been thinking the same, that by buying the Zaims he is buying the popular vote. But it didn't work that way for him since 2005. The emergence of general Michel Aoun, a former Syrian foe when everybody else was allied with the Syrians, and his party, The Free patriotic Movement, after Aoun's return from his exile in France after the Syrian withdrawal, has changed the political landscape in the christian community and beyond. The Hariri-Merch 14th coalition first tried to discredit him by depiciting him as a fool and a marginal of Politics but his popular support among Christians stayed unchanged. They then tried to strirr up the sectarian divide when they realised that this was not working enough for the March 14th coalition. But the more they try to push the people of Lebanon along this line and the more they discredit themselves in part of the population, the disappointed of 15 years of civil war, of two years of sectarian agitation since Hariri father died, and of the slow economic and social decline of the country that has emerged in Lebanon under the Hariris.

Christian leaders are only a screen for Hariris who, with the help of Saudi Arabia, continue implementing a one family rule (the Hariri family) of Lebanon marked by a shift from interreligious balance to affirming a Sunni-Saudi inspired and monitored takeover of the country, its economy, and its future. March 14th Christians are not even heard on decisions taken by the Hariri backed government and concerning their community in the first place;
The financing of Sunni extremism in Lebanon (for which many proofs have been given during the recent clashes between the Lebanese army and an extremist group in Nahr El-Bared);
The supression of the good Friday as a national holiday;
The signing by the Sanyura Hariri backed government of the Islamic chart for children's rights;
Many decisions disregarding the Christian community, the Hariri and Saudi backed Sanyura government has been taking, couldn't have been taken without the servility of March 14th Christian allies, and in total disregard for Lebanese political traditions in interreligious dialogue and balance of power between the different religious communities (in times of peace of course because when there is no dialogue they fight). Christian representatives allied to Hariri, like the Gemayels, Chamouns, Eddés, and Gea'gea, having lost the popular support, are just happy to be supported themselves by the all powerul Hariri and his money while sticking to the same sectarian politic of their ancestors.

The other reality is that the alliance between Michel Aoun's Christians and Hezbollah is different from the one between Christians and Hariri in March 14th. In the alliance between Aoun and Hezbollah, Christians are playing a major role and will continue playing this role on decisions concerning the fragile politico-religious equilibrium in Lebanon and the oecumenic character of the country. And because Hezbollah needs them in order not to appear as a southern only, shia only, political party, their influence extends to the way Hezbollah has practised and may continue to practice governance and power sharing in Lebanon. In addition to the fact that in the presence of a strong Christian party as an ally, Hezbollah, as Sheikh Nasrallah has expressed it in many occasions, will never govern Lebanon as an Islamic country, unless it is the will of all Lebanese. And as long as the voice of the Christian community will be heard, there will not be an Islamic republic in Lebanon. The other option being a secular Lebanon but under present circumstances in the Midlle east this option appears as an utopia.
On the other hand, as there is no written agreement between Hariri and his Christian allies on governance, Hariri feels he has free hands to do whatever he likes in all aspects of Lebanese life. The Saudi born and educated Hariri is islamising the country by small decrees under total silence from his Christian allies.

There is rhetoric and there is reality. Lebanese Christians may be sensitive to the rhetoric of March 14th and their propaganda. However, most of them, having lived through the civil war, are still more sensitive to reality because it allows them to sense danger and threats on their future in their country. The reality of the Christian community now in Lebanon is about the insecurity they feel for the place they might occupy in the Lebanese political chess game in the future. Changes for this future are hovering around. Who will choose the next Lebanese president, Hariri and Saudi Arabia or the people of Lebanon ? What will be the prerogatives of the new president to be elected in September in order to counter the monolithic Sunni ruled government and the all powerful Hariri and his holding that is sucking the blood of Lebanon, Solidere ?

No matter how much Aoun's political adversaries will try to pin on him the image of a Syrian collaborator - because of his alliance with Hezbollah - a man chosen by Syria and Iran, the reality is different. Because this same man had fought savagely the Syrian occupation while others like Gemayel and the Lebanese Forces have accepted unscrupulously the external American diktat of the time on collaborating with the Syrians. And no matter how much the March 14th will portray Hezbollah as an Islamist party, March 14th are the ones who are fighting sunni extremists who have gotten out of their control and of their pockets...

We can say many negative things on Lebanese and Lebanon's Politics but there is one thing the civil war taught Lebanese as communities: to evaluate danger on their survival. Hariri father and son have been transforming Lebanon and have achieved what a fierce civil war for survival and power sharing between religious communities had not achieved; putting Lebanon under the influence of one community while disregarding the others. The Mansourieh, Metn, Christians, and with them the whole Christian community who have been doing a soul search as of late, do no trust the Hariri coalition for their own future and the future of a multireligious Lebanon, the only viable option for Lebanese Christians.

"That General Aoun’s candidate, a virtual political unknown, proved a tough competitor to Mr. Gemayel, the onetime president who curried sympathy and campaigned in his son’s memory, underscored the level of discontent many Christians here have been feeling and the resonance of General Aoun’s message.

The general, in alliance with Hezbollah, has led the revolt against Lebanon’s political system, demanding greater inclusion and an end to control by a series of political dynasties."


Read this excellent analysis of the meaning of Gemayel's defeat by Joshua Landis at Syria Comment.

Angry Arab: Why I am worried about the safety of Armenians in Lebanon.

Angry Arab on Walid Jumblatt's Racism against Lebanese Christian Armenians

Mustapha Mond at Ms Levantine: Going Ugly early.

Angry Arab on Gemayel's reaction

*The results of the election are being contested by Gemayel as of Monday 1. a.m. local. This indicates that the tallies are in favour of Khouri. But even though Gemayel might be declared winner, given all his former titles and the fact that he led his campaign to replace the seat of his slain son, his 'victory' would only reflect the political loss Mr. Gemayel is incurring within his own community because of his alliance with Hariri.

P.S: The other partial election was in Beyrouth and the only challenger to the Hariri candidate was a secular communist. hezbollah boycotted the elections because they were not called by the president of the republic but by the March 14th government in disregard for the constitution. The participation was 18.9 % and the results are 22988 votes for the Hariri candidate and only 3556 for his communist rival.

4 comments:

annie said...

Delete, s'il te plaît; c'est évidemment du candidat d'Aoun que je voulais parler

Elizabeth said...

This is very interesting.
I really think US politicians, certainly my Member of Congress, have no idea whatsoever what is going on in Lebanon...maybe I'll send her your blog post.

Sophia said...

Elizabeth,
Please do. However I doubt that influential politicians are interested in seeing the reality of things, they are more interested in transforming it. But transforming reality in the middle east has already proved to be a tantalising job and has produced only deaths, miseries, misunderstandings, and some irreversible damage, none of them going the way US politicians claim to have as a project for this region.

phil said...

Nice blog. Je reviendrai pour sûr.

 
Since March 29th 2006