The Future Movement launched its electoral campaign last night at BIEL with a (rather unusually) charismatic speech by Saad al-Hariri. Eschewing the teleprompters (and correct desinential inflection, alas) al-Hariri built up to a stirring crescendo:
“Dear loved ones, there are nine weeks left until June 7. There are nine weeks before we fill the ballot boxes with our loyalty to Rafik al-Hariri and all the martyrs of the Cedars Revolution. Nine weeks before we are together in Beirut, in Tripoli, in Akkar, Dinniyeh, Minieh, Koura, Batroun, Zgharta and the entire North. Nine weeks before we are together in Mount Lebanon, with Walid Jumblatt in the Chouf, in Saida and the entire South. Nine weeks before we come together in West Bekaa, Rashaya, Zahle, Baalbek and Hermel and all of North Bekaa. Nine weeks before the election of Lebanon as a capable state and a democratic regime… We have nine weeks to elect Lebanon as it should be and to make our dreams and hopes for the future generations…”
Clever rhetorical device, the repetition of “nine weeks…,” conveying both urgency and optimism (while reminding the Lebanese when the election will be held, just in case the whole country is at the beach on what will likely be a balmy Sunday in June.) Still, I found myself thinking: “Nine weeks until the election, and we still don’t know who the hell is running…”
That’s right, the electoral lists are still incomplete, which brings me to my point. Campaigning in Lebanon seems to be about everything but the candidates. We’ve got the campaign posters, the massive demonstrations, the glitzy coming-out parties… but little substance. The Future Movement’s campaign launch last night was a case in point: a huge auditorium that looked like the set of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, packed with well-heeled Libanais doused in blue mood lighting. Everybody looked like a million bucks, and they all seemed to be very enthusiastic about what Saad was saying… but I still can’t really tell you what actual programs and initiatives his party is committed to.
By Wednesday morning, the candidate lists will be unveiled and we will finally know just how much horsetrading has been done behind the scenes. Here are my favorite instances thus far.
(1) Over the weekend, As-Safir confirmed rumors that the Free Patriotic Movement had reached a deal to include former minister Fares Boueiz on their Keserwan list. Check out this thread on the Tayyar forum to see what the rank-and-file think about allying with a “rancid geriatric” for political purposes. (So impolite, the young!)
(2) Walid Jumblatt had to free up two seats in Aley and Baabda for the Kataeb and the National Liberal Party. He complained about it in the press, saying “The inability of a non-partisan Christian to run for Parliament in these two districts is a sad and disconcerting thing.” Practically in the same breath, however, he announced that he would be dumping another MP (Faysal al-Sayegh) on the Aley list because “Mir Talal Arslan has the right to be represented in the Aley district.”
That’s right. He called him Mir. His hereditary title. It takes a special brand of cynicism to bitch about Lebanon’s imperfect democracy and then to keep a straight face as you justify your horsetrading on the basis of inalienable feudal privilege. What else did he promise Arslan, the jus primae noctis of Aley’s blushing virgins?
One step forward, two steps back…