Thursday, August 27, 2009

Deconstructing the Popular Vote in Lebanon's Election
by Elias MuhannaMideast Monitor
 Elias Muhanna, a PhD candidate in Near Eastern Studies at Harvard University, writes the widely read Lebanese blog Qifa Nabki. His commentary has appeared in The National, Foreign Policy, and other publications.

Lebanese cartoon

When Lebanon's ruling March 14 coalition won a parliamentary majority in the June elections, pundits rushed to interpret the victory as a sign of widespread popular support for America's allies. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman proclaimed that "a solid majority of all Lebanese . . . voted for the March 14 coalition."[1] Elliott Abrams wrote an op-ed proclaiming that "the majority of Lebanese have rejected Hezbollah's claim that it is not a terrorist group."[2] The victory of March 14 "no doubt came as a huge relief to . . . a good majority of Lebanese," mused Claude Salhani.[3]

As would become clear in the ensuing days, these characterizations were premature. Though March 14 managed to hold on to its majority in the 128-seat parliament, the opposition - comprising Hezbollah, Amal, and Michel Aoun's Change & Reform Bloc - won far more votes. Due to the nature of the Lebanese block vote electoral system (featuring multi-member districts with multiple vote ballots)[4] the exact margin of the opposition's popular vote victory is a matter of dispute,[5] but most calculations place it in the neighborhood of 10%.[6]...

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