Elections, Hezbollah, Lebanon

Kerfuffle… Looming!

nasrallahYou might want to turn on your televisions tonight, as Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah will be addressing the nation at 8:30 PM. I’m not going to predict what he’s going to say — in fact, I’m giving up predictions in general, and maybe forever — but a gambling man might bet his mortgage on the possibility that Nasrallah says something about the opposition’s demand for a cabinet veto.

This issue has consumed us here at Beirut Wonk Central, but if you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out some of these old posts (and especially this one) for a primer. The comment sections have been particularly good as well.
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I’ll do my best to update this post after the speech with a run-down of Nasrallah’s talking points.


42 thoughts on “Kerfuffle… Looming!

  1. It’s probably one of three scenarios:
    1) The Lebanese have spoken and I will agree to be a democratic and peaceful minority in Parliament. Probability of that happening 2%

    2) Give me Veto power or else. Probability 49%
    3) If you don’t want to give me Veto power then fine. I will accept to play the role of the opposition in parliament but I will take the first opportunity to recreate a scenario similar to July 2006 that will turn tables on the democratic process and will create a new reality on the ground. Probability of that is 49%.

    If I was a betting man I would put my money on choice number 3. You see, a stable, peaceful, and prosperous Lebanon is the antithesis of everything that the Hizb stands for. A peaceful Lebanon negates the need for the Hizb arms, it’s raison d’tere. A prosperous Lebanon will limit its role as the provider for the disenfranchised (Al mahromin), a mantra they often repeat.

    Posted by MM | June 8, 2009, 7:55 pm
  2. HN’s speech main outline

    نصرالله: يجب أن أتوجه بالشكر الى الوزارات و الجيش و القوى الأمنية لمحافظتهم على الامن

    “I must thank the ministries, the army and the security forces for maintaining order.”

    نصرالله: اتوجه بالتهنئة إلى جميع الفائزين

    “I congratulate all the winners.”

    نصرالله: نقبل النتائج المعلنة مع بقاء الحق للمرشحين إذا وجدت المعطيات للطعن امام المجلس الدستوري

    “We accept the declared results while reserving the right of every candidate to launch challenges with the Constitutional Council.”

    نصرالله: قد تكون الغالبية النيابية ليست غالبية شعبية

    “It is likely the majority is parliamentarian but not popular.”

    نصرالله: واجهنا حربا كونية و كل العالم حاول التدخل بهذه الإنتخابات

    “We faced a global war and the whole world tried to meddle with the elections.”

    نصرالله: مسؤوليتنا تجاه الذين ناضلوا معنا لا

    “Our responsibility towards those who struggled with us does not end.”

    Posted by majid | June 8, 2009, 8:58 pm
  3. Great reasonable and confident speech. The ball is back in M14 court. let’s see how they will respond

    Posted by elsheikh | June 8, 2009, 9:09 pm
  4. Rumor Update: Qifa Nabki slated for Ministry of Information? Can anyone confirm … ?

    Posted by dadavidovich | June 8, 2009, 9:22 pm
  5. Qifa Nabki for ministry of youth : )

    Posted by Alex | June 8, 2009, 10:27 pm
  6. Ministry of Tafnis?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 8, 2009, 10:37 pm
  7. ministery of debauchery.

    we ra’asni ya gada’

    Posted by offended | June 8, 2009, 10:49 pm
  8. wezarat al barq wal bareed
    Ministry of Lightening?!

    Posted by V | June 8, 2009, 11:51 pm
  9. If I were march 14,I wouldn’t rejoice too much.As a political science professor(sorry I forgot the name) said on al Jazeera,more than 800 000 voted for the opposition versus more than 600 000 who voted for march 14.Which means they cannot,under any circumstances take the country on vital questions to any extreme(like recognizing the southern villain for example,or do a nice act of tau’tin and break the confessional balance of this very confessional country,or try to implement the source of all sorrows,the 1559);because this is taking us all back to 1975 and worse(if there is something worse than what started in 1975).

    Posted by Bonzai | June 9, 2009, 4:30 am
  10. MM is providing the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (i.e. the Zionist) “analysis” (i.e. BS).

    Posted by MM is DmDm | June 9, 2009, 4:41 am
  11. so far 2 of the major powers in M8 Nasralla and Berri both conceded and accepted the election results but Aoun is still silent can anyone guess or predict what is Aoun’s next move

    Posted by V | June 9, 2009, 4:46 am
  12. Good question, V. According to the FPM website, tayyar.org:
    اجتماع لتكتل التغيير و الاصلاح بكامل نوابه القدماء والجدد نهار الأربعاء و كلمة للعماد عون من بعده
    “Meeting on Wednesday of the FPM with the complete slate of both its current and future MPs, after which Gen. Aoun will make a statement.”

    Posted by Honest Patriot | June 9, 2009, 6:27 am
  13. Is Bonzai right about the number of people who voted for each faction? If so, is this because heavily Shiite districts are high in population relative to their number of seats?

    Posted by Abraham Rotsapsky | June 9, 2009, 8:21 am
  14. Abraham Rotsapsky,
    NO Bonzai is not right.

    Official results released by the ministry of interior are as follows:

    56% of popular vate for March 14
    44% of popular vote for March 8

    Number of seats:
    71 March 14
    57 March 8

    I don’t know what Bonzai is up to or where he got his information from – A smokescreen for some propaganda perhaps.

    Posted by majid | June 9, 2009, 8:41 am
  15. Political science professors speaking to media tend to forget leaving their agenda in the dressing room, besides the cell phone… those on Al-Jazeera are no exception.

    Posted by mj | June 9, 2009, 9:09 am
  16. …and here is a fresh example from this morning:


    (Haven’t met Hilal Khashan, but it’s clear that his palls lost)

    Posted by mj | June 9, 2009, 9:38 am
  17. Folks, I’ll try to join this discussion later tonight. Right now, I’m off to the beach to detox a bit from elections coverage. After that, I’ll be at the Carnegie Middle East Center’s post-election seminar, and will report back on it.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 9, 2009, 10:11 am
  18. @11
    I don’t know what that Think Tank’s view is but I can tell you that this is how many Lebanese feel and the events of the past 4 years prove that for those people- but I digress. I guess if a Think Tank you disagree with claims that the sky is blue then your position is automatically to say that the sky is yellow or something. i.e, ignoring the message but attacking the messenger!

    Posted by MM | June 9, 2009, 3:48 pm
  19. on the issue of the popular vote I averaged the numbers of the winning lists and the numbers of the loosing lists (using the interior ministry numbers) and the Opposition is ahead by around 150 Thousand Votes nation wide. I used the same number for both in Beirut 2
    The issue is in the pure opposition districts the difference is humongous

    Posted by elsheikh | June 9, 2009, 4:34 pm
  20. Thanks Majid. 56% is actually a pretty impressive mandate. Does anyone have estimates of the breakdown of support from each community?

    Posted by Abraham Rotsapsky | June 9, 2009, 6:12 pm
  21. I am a bit confused with the Lebanese election results and do not understand how system works.

    Let’s take for example Elections Results – West Bekaa and Rachaya. The number of cast votes was 65,237. Each of the elected six got 33,000 – 35,000 votes as the document states. That alone makes about 200,000 votes. Seems that in Lebanon each voter has more than one vote. I tried to find more exact information how the Lebanese voting system works but with no big success and I have no “energy” for a detailed information search.

    The other question is how this religious quota system works in elections. Let’s assume that in West Bekaa and Rachaya not a single Maronite votes. How is it then possible that Maronites could get the quota of one representative they have? What do those religious groups who have no quota in some election region?

    Posted by SimoHurtta | June 9, 2009, 6:15 pm
  22. Nevermind, As’ad Abu Khalil seems to have information on communal voting patterns.

    Elsheikh, I didn’t see your post. What did you “average.” Did you just add the numbers in each district, or do something more complicated? I’d do this myself if I could only read Arabic.

    Posted by Abraham Rotsapsky | June 9, 2009, 6:20 pm
  23. Okay, I think I get what you mean Elsheikh, you averaged the votes of all of the M14 candidates to figure out the number of M14 voters, and same for M8. Makes sense. Now that I have found the numbers in English, I’ll have to follow through on my threat . . .

    Posted by Abraham Rotsapsky | June 9, 2009, 6:43 pm
  24. So now is the time to start asking a few questions:
    1) Is the standard polling methodology used in western countries inappropriate for the Arab world?
    2) Is Hizballah’s long tern plan really to become a strong political party and put down the weapons eventually? If so, why are they content with 11 seats and perhaps are even happy to have lost?
    3) Are the results in Lebanon indicative of what democracy will bring in general in the Arab world: no to “resistance” and yes to prosperity, economic development and good ties with the West?

    My take: yes, no, yes

    Posted by AIG | June 9, 2009, 6:55 pm
  25. As for the third “yes,” AIG needs another bailout!

    Posted by Jihad | June 9, 2009, 7:25 pm
  26. Simo, Simo, you are so smart!
    There are six elected seats in the example you give, each for a given “color” (= denomination), so each elector casts one vote for each of those seats, hence, in your lingo, “six” votes, but the elector is casting one vote for each seat.
    Just like, in the U.S., for example, when we go to the poll, we cast one vote for President, one for the Congressperson (Representative), one for the Senator, one for the state congressperson (state representative), one for the state senator, one for the attorney general (if that position is in the running), etc.
    One vote per position.
    It’s elementary Mr. Watson, and the other elementary part is the wonderful, candid, disclosure of our friend Simo’s mental abilities.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | June 9, 2009, 7:29 pm
  27. SH is a very curious fellow HP. I already told him on SC what you explained here.

    This is not from him of course. The losers are still in a state of shock and awe. They need sometime to adjust. So they are coming up with all sorts of balloons. You should read what Amal Saad Ghorayeb is dreaming about. She is going nuts.

    Posted by majid | June 9, 2009, 8:06 pm
  28. It is so clear that Nasrullah wanted to loose this election, his speech about May 2008 last week must have been calculated. The real shame is that it means that any hopes for Hizbollah’s good intentions for Lebanon are in tatters. Their interest is not to engage the electorate through a democratic process, but to continue to hold it ransom on issues of its choosing. I only wish that Aoun had managed to integrate Hizbollah effectively. If he had achieved he would have obligated many Christians to accept their waning dominance in this country and being to come to terms with it. Its happened before to sects in Lebanon and by hook or by crook it will happen again!

    Posted by Zaytouni | June 9, 2009, 8:18 pm
  29. QN,
    Interesting to see that the Beirut Stock Exchange surging almost 10% on Tuesday – the first day of trading after the elections. Some investors are voting with their checkbooks.

    Posted by MM | June 9, 2009, 8:35 pm
  30. To Mj and Majid,
    Sorry to interrupt your dream but I am afraid you are wrong.Check the electoral law and the very bizarre way of attributing candidates.You will notice that in some districts few thousand of votes will determine the choosing of a candidate,where as in others a much bigger number of votes is required to be voted in parliament.This is done to respond to the necessity of the confessional quotas and is NOT representative of the will of the majority.Of course march 14 got 56% of the seats.Nobody is foolish enough to deny that.Nevertheless there is a STRUCTURAL problem that nobody should deny because all citizens should be equals.Otherwise,a huge chunk of the population will feel allienated and this is in nobody’s interest.We can’t build a country with first and second class citizens

    Posted by Bonzai | June 9, 2009, 9:46 pm
  31. Majid

    Would you provide a source for your figures on the popular vote?

    The figures given by experts at the Carnegie event were different. One person suggested that M8 won around 800,000 votes while M14 around 700,000. Here’s what I wrote to Alex in an email about this:

    “The point is that there are many more Shi`a in Lebanon than there are Sunnis or Christians, and the way that the districts are drawn means that it takes 60,000 voters in some districts to elect a Shiite voter whereas only 20,000 voters to elect a Christian (or 15,000 for a Druze).

    So obviously the popular vote is going to be on the side of the Shi`a, whether they win or lose.

    …As long as the electoral law remains as it is, and as long as Hizbullah/Amal don’t contest non-Shiite seats in a big way, they are always going to have more and more voters electing the same few number of seats.

    In Baalbek, for example, the Hizbullah list won with something like 85% of the vote! They have no competition! So of course they’re going to rack up lots of the “popular vote”.”

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 9, 2009, 10:20 pm
  32. Illustrating my point, a post from Angry Arab’s blog:

    The guy who got the largest number of votes is:
    Emile Rahmeh – 109,060
    So, Tadamon party is the most popular party – kid you not (as you say)”.
    PS Emile Rahmah was a Lebanese Forces man during the civil war. In the 1990s, he changed and became aligned with the Syrian regime and its allies in Lebanon. He founded his own party (Solidarity Party, which has two other members) and was put on Hizbullah list in Ba`albak.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 9, 2009, 10:31 pm
  33. More from Angry Arab:

    Just to tell you how much `Awn has lost support among Christians: in the 2005 election, the difference between any of his candidates and the losers was more than 10,000 votes. In this election, the difference between Gen. `Awn himself and the losing candidate Mansur Al-Bawn was a mere 1500 votes. That tells you something. What I found more stunning is Zghorta. Somebody told me that Sulayman Franjiyyah looked very subdued in victory. The reason is in the numbers. In the last election (which was on the basis of larger districts where Franjiyyah lost because Sunni voters determined the outcome of elections in the North), an analysis of the Zghorto district shows that Franjiyyah received three times more votes than those who lost, like Nayla Mu`awwad, who obtained something like 20% of votes in the district itself (and yet she won with Sunni votes in the larger district). In this election, the difference between Sulayman Franjiyyah and the first losing candidate, Mishel Mu`awwad, was a mere 3000 votes. This is very big for Zghorta. Real big. So `Awn and Franjiyyah will now have to adjust and that will make them less antagonistic toward their Sunni rivals.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 9, 2009, 10:47 pm
  34. Honest Patriot and Majid I am not so sure of your own “mental” capabilities. Honest Patriot if you on the same election day in USA can vote for one president candidate, for one congress candidate etc is completely different as your Lebanon “example”. Actually in USA you participate on the same election day to several different elections. In Lebanon they had one election.

    It is a bit difficult to believe to your explanation that every registered voter can vote for one person for each seat. What if the majority of voters (for example Shias) in a district decide to vote the most stupid and unpopular candidate in the other groups lists. Surely the majority could “control” the outcome also in this case. It is very difficult to believe that such system could work. Why on earth would for example the Shia voters vote for a rather “hostile” leader on the other sects list, of course they would choose the lists “clown” to weaken the other side.

    Posted by SimoHurtta | June 10, 2009, 7:15 am
  35. SH,

    You have to know more about Lebanon voters. I’m not challenging your mental abilities, but Lebanon is completely different than the US when it come to elections. The game in Lebanon is to control the largest block of MP’s. Currently you need at least 64 seats to control parliament. The more you get of course the better.

    First in any one district, the voter would cast ONE ballot with the names of all his candidates listed on the ballot. He can also make his own ballot with his choice of running candidates or he can be ridiculous and put any names which will, of course, void his ballot. In other words he can choose to vote for candidates, for example, from M14 or M8 on the same list. He has to form his list, however, in accordance with the sectarian composition of the seats allowed for that district.

    Your scenario for choosing the least capable candidate from the opposing camp has no political value in this game of controlling parliament. In fact, in most cases voters are not voting for the most capable. What usually happens is that a district which has one or two seats allotted to a sect that is allied with one of the major groups but its constituent sect within that district is a minority, the representatives for that sect are dictated by the major group which has the major constituency. Let’s take an example the Baalbek-Hermel district. It is a Shi’ite dominated district loyal to Hezb. There are two Sunni seats in that district and there is one Christian seat. In this district, the Sunnis and the Christians have no choice but to have their representatives to be dictated by Hezbollah. So they are elected in that district by mostly Hezb voters and when they go to parliament, they are within M8 camp. They have no other choice, otherwise next time they will be trashed. There are quite few districts with similar situation. The end result of this cross sectarian MP’s within each camp balances out more or less. I am not excluding here the possibility that some Sunnis are by conviction loyal to M8; or vice versa you may also find some Shi’te who are loyal to M14.

    Posted by majid | June 10, 2009, 8:01 am
  36. Lebanon will eventually have to accept the power of the demographic majority. Whatever the exact figures in this case, it is evident that Lebanon is promoting a ‘democratic’ system which is largely unfettered from the ‘demos’. The real challenge is to try and ensure that this fettering can occur without resort to the crude tactics of war.

    Every election that this is not achieved makes these crude tactics more plausible. It is of course problematic that Hizbollah have already committed themselves to crude tactics without genuinely attempting the pacific route. Any ideas about how this can happen, because the Dirty Dozen haven’t got a clue?

    Posted by Zaytouni | June 10, 2009, 10:03 am
  37. Well then the system has in the end very little to do with democracy, if one person one vote is the definition of democracy (=equal share of “power”). Sure people can vote and obviously vote for many candidates but the quota system based on “ancient” data makes the “system” more or less absurd. If the number of votes QN mentioned above is true it means that M8 got 53 percent of the votes, but only 44 percent of the seats. Though I am totally confused how a reliable amount of votes can be even calculated and credible analyses made of each groups real support if nobody knows how many votes each voter had used and did they have an opportunity to vote on the “different sects” list a person who is near to their own views. If each voter can give 3 to 11 votes (is that really equal) surely the amount of votes should be bigger than 1.5 million mentioned above.

    Basically I would understand better that a registered voter could vote the candidates on the lists of his/hers own sect than that they can vote all sects lists in their district. Well for us Europeans, who are used to a less complex democracy than Lebanon has, it is difficult to understand this system.

    Posted by SimoHurtta | June 10, 2009, 11:28 am
  38. “Well then the system has in the end very little to do with democracy, if one person one vote is the definition of democracy (=equal share of “power”).”

    SHurtta: Its called representative democracy, most of Europe subscribes to it as well. What makes Lebanon extra-special in this case is the religious parameters I guess, but except for that its basically how much of the west does it.

    Posted by fnord | June 10, 2009, 1:50 pm
  39. SH,

    What you’re saying is basically correct. But you cannot say it is not democratic. It is in a sense similar to the Electoral College system in the US.

    In the case of Lebanon, it is as you said not very straightforward to come up with an accurate assessment of the popular vote. I saw on March 14 website two days ago official popular and seat results displayed on its first page showing 56% popular vote for M14 and 44% for M8. The page has since been updated.

    However, it is not clear on what basis these new so-called studies are conducted. How could one determine the popular vote from such system of voting? The voting system does not lend itself to a simple count of ballots to give you an indication. One thing I can say for sure is that the political parties involved have an interest at this point in justifying their shortcomings. So they will use any argument for that purpose. Nevertheless, it was the opposition which insisted on the use of this electoral law, which goes back to 1960, in the division of districts.

    We know for a fact that a Christian MP needs about 19000 votes to be elected based on the number of Christian MP’s and the number of Christian voters. The Msulim MP on the other hand needs 31000 Muslim votes to be elected. This is due to the fact that the Parliament is divided equally between the Christians (including all denominations) and the Muslims (Sunni, Shi’ite, and Druze). This is what was agreed upon in Taif as a way to end the civil war. In this agreement, the Christians recognized the fact of changing demographics. So they accepted the 50/50 representation as opposed to the 5/6 representation that was in their favor before Taif.

    You may argue and say that the Christians are over represented in the Parliament. That is true. However, you still have to go back in history to understand its justification. In a nutshell, the Christians of Lebanon have to be made to feel secure in an environment that is becoming less and less in their favor due to changing demographics. If you go back to 1943 when Lebanon gained independence you may get some perspective. At that time the Christians looked at France, the colonial power with a League of Nations mandate over Lebanon, as their protector in a mostly Muslim region. A deal of power sharing formula was struck (an unwritten code still in force) that united the Muslims and Christians in seeking independence from France. The Taif agreement modified the parliamentary representation quota of the Muslims and Christians to par as a guarantee that the Christians will be equally represented in Lebanon (which they consider as the only Christian homeland in the Middle East) while giving in to Muslim demands.

    Short of abolishing the confessional system altogether I can not see how we can divide 4 apples among 5 persons and still give each person a whole apple. We have limited resources and the population is changing.

    Posted by majid | June 10, 2009, 2:28 pm
  40. SHurtta: Its called representative democracy, most of Europe subscribes to it as well. What makes Lebanon extra-special in this case is the religious parameters I guess, but except for that its basically how much of the west does it.

    Well then a situation where there is one candidate in elections like in Syria etc they are equally “representative” system. Somebody representing your faith/tribe doesn’t necessarily make Lebanon a real democracy.

    Surely I would not call my country Finland a real representative democracy if there would be quotas in parliament for each religious group based on a very outdated data and I would given several other votes besides my own “group’s” vote depending from the size of my voting region. I would call it a strange form of democracy.

    Imagine USA with a same kind of “representative” parliamentary system as Lebanon has. The Congress would have religious quotas and you could give tens of votes to different Christian fragment, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu etc candidates. That system would certainly be a formula to an “interesting political environment”.

    Surely I understand the circumstances in which the Lebanese system had been created. To me a big surprise was this multi vote system. But in the end the relevant question is does the present system create more problems than it solves. Maybe a more plain, normal representative democracy could be better for Lebanon and Middle East.

    Posted by SimoHurtta | June 16, 2009, 1:42 pm


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