Tuesday, June 09, 2009

From Counterpunch

Franklin Lamb: Lebanon's Elections
Return to the Status Quo
Lebanon's Elections


Today’s predawn stillness was shortly and regularly broken by the crowing of Beirut’s eternal chanters, its roosters. Some from as many as 20 stories up in downtown and Hamra apartment building balconies and roofs, others shunted and jammed into small cages or pits inside the Palestinian Refugee Camps. They seemed to speak and pass messages from the posh neighborhoods of East Beirut to the gypsy shacks and tents near Ouzai, as they welcomed the new day.

The votes have been tallied and the election results show pretty much a status quo ante with the Majority picking up a net four seats (a new total of 71 with 57 for the Opposition) at the expense of the Christian Maronite leader and Opposition ally, former General Aoun and the Free Patriotic Movement. Sometimes contentious in the heat of campaign, the FPM was gracious this morning in conceding its opponents will remain the Majority, if obviously disappointed.

One FPM supporter was in tears and she explained that having been educated abroad, she returned to Lebanon and hoped an Opposition victory would expose and end rampant corruption and the Ziam graft system and she was depressed because she fears things might remain as they have been. Michel de Chadarevian, a member of Gen. Michel Aoun's FPM political bureau told the media that FPM was disappointed with the election result but would respect the outcome and would now work with all parties to form a government of national unity. "Lebanon can only be governed by a national unity government," he said. "Even if we had won we would have formed a national unity government.”

Hezbollah, which won all 11 districts in which it fielded its 11 candidates, and along with its allies won 21 seats in southern Lebanon succeeded in raising its vote tallies, despite a Saudi-funded rival Shai party, Lebanon Option Movement. Hezbollah’s and its allies also won 10 seats in the eastern Baalbek region.

Hezbollah member, Hasan Fadlallah, an MP in the outgoing parliament, explained: “What matters to us now is that Lebanon turns a new page, one based on partnership, cooperation and understanding," he said. "Lebanon's specificity is in its diversity and there is no majority or minority. No party can claim to have won the majority among all communities." Hezbollah MP Mohamed Raad, the Opposition leader in Parliament, reminded his fellow Lebanese that “the majority must commit not to question our role as a resistance party, the legitimacy of our weapons arsenal and the fact that Israel is an enemy state”.

The US administration is reportedly disappointed that their ‘Team’ did not achieve a stronger victory. Just before the voting, the Obama administration allowed Jeffrey Feltman, Deputy Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, in clear violation of Lebanon voting laws, which required no campaigning after midnight on Friday, to blitz the media through carefully timed interviews with pro-Majority An-Nahar and al-Hayat newspapers, with his personal calls for the Lebanese to have enough intelligence to vote as Feltman saw fit. Many Lebanese resented the additional interference in which Feltman announced: "The election's outcome will naturally affect the world's stance towards the new Lebanese government and the manner in which the United States and Congress deal with Lebanon. I believe the Lebanese are smart enough to understand that there will be an effect.”

Feltman attacked the head of the Free Patriotic Movement MP General Michel Aoun, lecturing Lebanese voters: "one of your politicians is proposing that Christians shouldn't depend on the United States. I hope the Lebanese had accurately listened to the president's [Barack Obama] speech that specifically pointed to the widest Christian religious minority in Lebanon, the Maronites. The president spoke about the need for respecting all peoples in the region including minorities…I hope the Lebanese would ask themselves: do we want to be on the side of the international community and close to the stances that president Obama made? I hope they would say, yes."

The June 7, 2009 election has done little to change the political landscape here. It was never a question of an Islamic Republic if the Opposition had decisively prevailed or whether Hezbollah’s weapons would be decommissioned before Lebanon was able to defend itself. Nor was it in question that a slim majority by either side would not require a renewed commitment to the Taef Accord calls and the full implementation of all the clauses and the need for Parliament to enact a modern electoral law based on proportional representation which a majority in Lebanon desire....

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