Elections, Lebanon

One Size Fits All

lebparties

A friend recently drew my attention to a fascinating and rather addictive website called Vote Match For Lebanon, designed by Nahar al-Shabab. The site takes the form of an online survey meant to help people figure out which Lebanese party best suits their political positions.

The survey contains twenty-six statements and you have the option of agreeing or disagreeing (either partially or completely) with each one. You can also rate the importance of the issue raised, or pass on it altogether.

After you finish the survey, the website produces a list of Lebanese parties, ranking them according to the degree to which your answers match their political platforms. The “match” is expressed as a percentage.

The statements range from predictable litmus tests of party loyalty like the status of Hizbullah’s weapons and the future of relations with Syria, to questions about different policy issues (e.g. electoral reform, women’s rights, a national curriculum for public schools, etc.)

Here’s a quick paraphrase of the first ten items for those who don’t read Arabic:

  1. The president’s powers of forming a government and dissolving the Chamber of Deputies — as they existed prior to the Ta’if Accord — should be restored;
  2. A Senate should be established, along with a National Commission to Abolish Political Sectarianism as a first step towards secularizing the state;
  3. The reason why administrative decentralization has not been pursued is because of the fear that it will lead to federalism;
  4. There is no point in continuing the national dialogue talks because they haven’t led to anything productive;
  5. Turning Hizbullah’s weapons into a permanent reality threatens the building of the state;
  6. We should get rid of Palestinian weapons in Lebanon;
  7. The future opposition should have a blocking veto in the cabinet;
  8. Syria and its allies want to impede the progress of the Tribunal by any means necessary;
  9. The division of the security services threatens the security situation in the country;
  10. The borders between Lebanon and Syria should be drawn despite the continued occupation of territory by Israel…
  11. Etc…

**

I bet you’re all wondering how I did, right? Well I’m going to tell you anyway. The first several times I completed the survey, the website seemed to crash while processing my answers. I kid you not. The system just couldn’t handle the eccentricity of old QN, could it? (That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.)

By the time I managed to get the blasted thing to work (gearing my responses to a less imaginative and more rudely partisan sensibility, ho ho ho) I was given a 68% match with the Democratic Left Movement.

“Thank God,” I thought, breathing a sigh of relief. “At least it’s one of the cooler fringe parties that can afford to remain principled because it has no power whatsoever.”

And then my heart sank.

Second on the list was the Future Movement, immediately followed by Amal and the Communist Party. Directly below them was a three-way tie between the FPM, the Kata’eb, and Jumblatt’s PSP.

And so it went. It seems that I am a 50%+ match with twenty-seven different parties, including the Lebanese Forces and Hizbullah (tied at 56%), Suleiman Frangieh’s Marada (60%) and the Nasserists (55%). One thing I apparently am not, is a Green Party supporter (11%), which is strange because I’m the only person I know in Beirut who has a kitchen full of empty plastic bottles awaiting the next trip to the recycling depot. I must be one of those phony environmentalist types… I hate those guys.

Anyway, if you haven’t yet decided on your candidates, go check out the website and then come back here and report. (You’re sure to be more confused than you were before you discovered it.)
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Discussion

28 thoughts on “One Size Fits All

  1. hehe
    i like the website!

    i’m gonna vomit though!, i match carlos edde’s party by 94%!!!!!

    Posted by babagannouj | May 19, 2009, 11:56 pm
  2. Damn! under construction atm.
    WB Anyways QN, hope the mountain breeze inspired more posting.

    Posted by Maverick | May 20, 2009, 1:17 am
  3. Actually, correction, its working fine.
    Im apparently the Carlos Edde and Elias Attallah type.
    Babaghannouj, care to join?

    Posted by Maverick | May 20, 2009, 1:48 am
  4. Reading my results, my top five came out (in order): Tadamon Party, Islamic Labor Front (!?!?), FPM, Henshag party and some unknown party. The next five were: Future Movement, Communist party, Marada, Amal and Lebanese Democratic Party.

    Of my top 10, 8 are in the opposition… hmm… If I should consider parties who have a chance at the elections, the first in my results would be the FPM. Oh well, why not?

    Posted by Nidal | May 20, 2009, 7:03 am
  5. Don’t read Arabic, but feel that, as per QN’s helpful translation, some of the questions seem loaded or at least flawed. IE Syria wants to impede the tribunal… so? And is it to the extent of “any means necessary?” I can already picture Saad Hariri clutching an M1 carbine next to the window of his mansion. Or question ten — to what extent does the Israeli occupation of the Shebaa farms impact the geographic lines between Lebanon and Syria? And what’s the relative importance of Israeli meddling versus Syrian meddling?

    Help me out here. I’m an American who doesn’t speak Arabic who’d like to know a lot more about Lebanese politics than what he sees on the BBC or Wikipedia. I understand that this quiz, being in Arabic, is geared towards the type of person who know a bit about the political weather in Lebanon, but to me it simply underscores my ignorance. Please help an American who doesn’t know shit.

    Posted by Andrew | May 20, 2009, 7:16 am
  6. Andrew Says:

    “Please help an American who doesn’t know shit.”

    Forgive me but (LOL) oh sorry LOL again, don’t feel so inadequate Andrew, being an Arab I can loudly say with confidence that I don’t know ‘shit’ either, except how to spell, it or when it is “verbalised”

    Most who have studied or comment about the politics of Lebanon are in due course drowning in “shit”, I just want to warn you that you will be literally “covered in it”, like we are, so save your sanity !

    Posted by Enlightened | May 20, 2009, 7:54 am
  7. ok, i’m 81% hanshak, who would have guessed! followed by 77% mustaqbal, 75% hizb al-tadhamun (who are they, btw?!), 73 PSP, and then there’s an almost tie between the democratic left (QN!), the hizb al-ta7arrur al-3arabi (don’t know them either), selim al-hoss’s folks, and amal. nice. i’m 0% green party and 7arakat al-isti2lal, and it’s good to know i only have a roughly 40% match with both the ba3thists and the LF. i think it’s good i’m not allowed to vote in this country.

    Posted by bint abeeha | May 20, 2009, 9:54 am
  8. nice website, thanks for sharing!
    Interestingly, top results seem to fit my views 84% and 83% match with communist party and democratic left movement.. lebanese forces and ba3th party came last, so I am sure there is some truth to the results 🙂 !!

    Posted by Nadeem | May 20, 2009, 1:41 pm
  9. I got a funny contradiction. 1st Furture 2nd Amal, 3rd Talal Arslan’s party and 4th Hanshak (huh?????)

    Posted by Innocent Criminal | May 20, 2009, 1:43 pm
  10. hahaha seriously funny!

    Posted by Bech | May 20, 2009, 1:51 pm
  11. @Enlightened

    I really appreciate your sentiment, and I love your play on words — that by learning more about Lebanese politics I would know feces at a very deep level of understanding. I guess what I was driving at, though I didn’t make it clear in my last post, is this — everything I know about Lebanon, which fascinates the hell out of me, comes from here and the Angry Arab. Are there any other good sources of information on the subject short of spending a year or two there myself?

    Posted by Andrew | May 20, 2009, 4:06 pm
  12. Andrew:

    Everyone who comes here seems to start with Fisk’s Pity the Nation or Friedman’s From Beirut to Jerusalem, but I don’t find the former that great and haven’t read the latter.

    To my mind, a few good places to start would be Kamal Salibi’s Modern History of Lebanon and Elisabeth Picard’s Lebanon: A Shattered Country. Otherwise, a good, and short, history of the civil war can be found in Edgar O’Ballance’s Civil War in Lebanon. And for a (very) short primer on Hezbollah, you could do a lot worse than Augustus Norton’s Hezbollah: A Short History.

    Actually, a bibliography would make for a good post, ya QN, since you’re getting more and more readers, many of whom aren’t necessarily that familiar with Lebanon.

    Posted by sean | May 20, 2009, 5:08 pm
  13. For francophones, a good book would be Georges Corms’s “Le Liban Contemporain”.

    Posted by Nidal | May 20, 2009, 6:06 pm
  14. My resutlts are as follows:

    1. Amal (72%),
    2. Arslans party (69%),
    3. Arab Liberation Party and Hanshak (68% each)

    at the bottom are the Green Party and the Guardians of the Cedars (funny combination indeed)

    Posted by c.sydow | May 20, 2009, 7:09 pm
  15. Given that my real job is all about putting together authoritative bibliographies, I’d prefer not to turn my hobby into one as well! Still, Sean’s suggestion is a good one, but why don’t we make it a collaborative venture.

    If anyone has any recommendations for items to add to the list, just list them here and eventually I’ll compile them into a post.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 20, 2009, 7:42 pm
  16. If you must learn about Lebanon, then you first should learn about Syria. Ha!

    Posted by offended | May 20, 2009, 8:04 pm
  17. Andrew,
    You could have a very short course on Lebanon at this link:
    http://www.tanbourit.com/lebanon_war.htm

    Posted by mike | May 20, 2009, 8:45 pm
  18. Thanks to all for the literary recommendations.

    For something a little more relevant to my life at the moment, how about an authoritative ranking of different brands of arak? I just commissioned into the army and I need to “celebrate.” עלית does the job at the moment, but so does anything with at least 50% alcohol. And I’d rather not drink an Israeli brand.

    Posted by Andrew | May 20, 2009, 9:56 pm
  19. Yes brilliant.
    My list has me in Al mo2tamar al sha3bi al loubnani, then 7arakat el yasar el democrati and as with you, at the very lowest (3%) green party. It’s actually a propaganda against them, considering there are no specifically green questions in that test. Thanks for posting it’s totally onto my facebook now.

    Posted by Joujolie | May 21, 2009, 4:55 am
  20. QN

    Well out of curiosity, i took the survey. I am not going to report my results because First, being a Syrian, the last thing I want is to interfere and Second, I am not sure I can repeat my own results by taking the test again.

    However
    After taking the survey and getting the result listing all parties, if you select a the individual party comparison with your own vote, and select the Green Party from the pull down menu, you will find that the reason your GQ scored low is not you lack of greenness on your side but the fact that the official party position was no-answer to most questions. So you only score green when you are either confused about, or have complete apathy to a question.

    But the idea is superb and I liked it.

    Posted by Off the Wall | May 21, 2009, 6:01 am
  21. offended Says:

    May 20, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    If you must learn about Lebanon, then you first should learn about Syria. Ha!
    ——————————————-

    Offended you are such a troublemaker !

    Andrew:

    The books that were recommended provide some insight into the country, however you might need to delve a little deeper into the history of the Maronites, and the struggle with the Druzes as well, to have some real insights into the predicament of the Lebanese state.

    Forgive my wordplay, and I am delighted that an American would want to delve and understand a Middle East country, kudos to you for trying to educate your self. My expression of a Hate/Love relationship of the country of my birth is just mere frustration.

    I recall explaining to a very old university friend whose father spoke in glowing terms of Lebanon, he spent 5 years working there in the sixties and she was at a loss to know why he thought that way given the country’s predicament. This was my explanation “Just imagine within a small confine and you have some of the most beautiful geography on Earth-mountains, sea,plains,trees, old sites dating back to biblical times, and just imagine it to be one gigantic toilet that you cant flush”

    I will always have a Hate/Love relationship with the country of my birth, I will learn to hate it a little less when The Lebanese learn to appreciate it more. And learn to be a little less sectarian.

    Posted by Enlightened | May 21, 2009, 6:16 am
  22. Andrew,

    As for your desire to learn about lebanese politics, all I can say is welcome to the Ship of Fools. For so many lebanese, it is a hobby that is loaded with conspiracy theories that many don’t even make any sense to a sane person, yet depending on your pre-conceived persuasion they make all the sense in the world and you go from there.

    Now on arak. You can’t go wrong with any Zahle produced brand. They are exported to the US, you just have to look for them in major US cities. You pay a bit more than the other garbage, but you get what you pay for.

    Posted by Ras Beirut | May 21, 2009, 7:33 am
  23. Back in 2003 the Economist wrote a (PR) piece on arak. It’s still a good read.

    Liquid fire
    Dec 18th 2003 | BEIRUT

    WHAT is Islam’s greatest gift to the world? The faith of the Koran, Muslims will promptly say—along, some would add, with the Arabic language. Yet it may be that the single most pervasive legacy of Islamic civilisation is not holy scripture, but the rather unholy art of distilling alcohol…

    http://www.economist.com/world/mideast-africa/displaystory.cfm?story_id=E1_NNRTSVS&source=login_payBarrier

    Posted by K | May 21, 2009, 1:30 pm
  24. Re book recommendations. Perhaps Andrew might also like Alex Klaushofer’s engaging Paradise Divided: A Portrait of Lebanon

    Its eminently readable and has perceptive portraits of people and groups, written in a great personal style.

    Ann

    Posted by peoplesgeography | May 21, 2009, 5:28 pm
  25. Top four:
    Democratic Left Movement 86%
    Future 83% (ugh)
    Hanshak 83% – who the hell are these guys?
    The Movement to Renew Democracy 79% – This is Edde’s group right?

    Bottom four:
    Hizb el Te7rir 38%
    Baath party 36%
    Independence Movement 0%
    Green Party 0%

    And to think I was close to joining the Green party. This is a very helpful tool, except that I am now even more confused than I was before.

    Whose in the Democratic Left Movement? Aren’t they opposed to Future movement? Why do they rank so close?

    How bout a site that tells you what each party’s or representative’s voting record is as opposed to the official party platform (which is full of shit anyway)… I think this is what is really needed. Anyone up for a new watchdog NGO?

    Posted by Johnny | May 21, 2009, 7:03 pm
  26. Johnny,
    The Democratic Left movement is exactly as it sounds. On the political spectrum, its offcentre towards the left, presided over by Elias Attalah, it is associated with figures like Samir Kassir and George Hawi.RIP.

    Posted by Maverick | May 21, 2009, 7:14 pm
  27. I forget the number but my highest match was the green party. I also got fed up and clicked no answer for the last 13 questions, so grain of salt.

    As for Lebanon books that I’d recommend:

    Like his politics or not, Ajami’s “The Vanished Imam” is a fantastic book.

    Ditto Salibi’s “House of Many Mansions” He has one paragraph where he pretty much sums up the sorry state of the Lebanese political system from the 40’s on.

    “In the Path of Hizballah” by Ahmed Nizar Hamze.

    And I’m forgetting the author, but read “Syria, Neither Bread nor Freedom”

    Posted by mrrobinson95 | May 21, 2009, 7:14 pm
  28. Andrew,

    Just to balance out your library on Lebanon, you may want to read a few books by Brigitte Gabriel…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brigitte_Gabriel

    Posted by Akbar Palace | May 21, 2009, 7:21 pm

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