Elections, Lebanon, March 14

March 14 Declares Victory

march14demonstrationWe are awaiting the final confirmation from the Ministry of the Interior, but media sources are widely reporting a victory for March 14, and opposition leaders have all but conceded defeat.

Tomorrow (or later today, I should say), the next battle begins. At stake is the question of the premiership and the composition of the cabinet, with a special emphasis on the issue of what veto powers, if any, the opposition will enjoy. Walid Jumblatt has called for a national unity government, but refrained from saying that the opposition should hold a veto. All of these issues will be settled within the coming days.

I will be covering these developments closely, so stay tuned.
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19 thoughts on “March 14 Declares Victory

  1. Lets nope a status quo of the past 4 years to the next won’t happen. Hezbollah’s threat will force the U.S. for Israel to make reasonable concessions, if democracy works in Lebanon.

    Posted by Jester theFool | June 8, 2009, 1:18 am
  2. no more updates for today? should i stop hitting the refresh button?

    Posted by saeed | June 8, 2009, 1:18 am
  3. So the veto rule could well be scraped?

    That could potentially weaken Hezbollah. I’m not sure how they would agree to something like this.

    Posted by Anthony | June 8, 2009, 1:55 am
  4. QN,

    As I predicted before on this blog M14 has clinched a victory, and that it was due to Aoun’s flip flopping. The majority of the christian electorates saw the flip flopping first hand since 05 and they weren’t about to reward him.

    Folks can forgive Jumblat for flip flopping as he’s a flip flopper by profession and they expected it from him. Besides he doesn’t have to deal with the heavily contested cazas.

    Moral of the story is Aoun gambled big and lost.

    Now for the day after, I hope M14 will stretch its hand to the opposition and form a unity government, and start concentrating on real issues that affect the economy, environment and ending the outdated sectarian quota system.

    Mabrook to Lebanon for running a relatively smooth election, given the tense competition.

    QN, I should have bet you a shawarma sandwish over the election, as I got the impression that you thought that M8 will win.

    Posted by Ras Beirut | June 8, 2009, 4:09 am
  5. Ras Beirut ,

    Well said , i join in calling for a new system in Lebanon.

    Posted by norman | June 8, 2009, 4:22 am
  6. Paul Salem, of Carnegie in Lebanon, stated that these are the first proper free elections since 1972 and outlined three posts-election scenarios:

    1. Hung parliament what Salem sees as most likely. “This is where each camp holds large minorities and a group of independents, close to the President, holding the balance of votes,” Salem said. Outside powers of Saudi, US and Syria are directly and indirectly trying to push for this occurrence Salem stated. Interestingly, Salem claims that Syria does not want an all out March 8th victory because Aoun has a difficult relationship with Syria and Hezbollah is closer to Iran. So for Syria the best result is a hung parliament and Syria successfully sold this idea to the US and Saudi as the best option, according to Salem.

    2. March 14 win. March 14 have stated that they will refuse to grant veto power to March 8 but Salem warns this could lead to violence and should instead get clear commitments from March 8 to move forward on key political and economic issues.

    3. March 8 win. Salem states that this could lead to a situation where there is a collapse in support for Lebanon from the international community and the Gulf states. This could lead to “a collapse in confidence in Lebanon and a precipitous decline into economic and social unrest.”

    Posted by norman | June 8, 2009, 5:09 am
  7. Thanks Norman.

    You are right, the elephant in the room is the sectarian system, and it would be an uphill fight to change it since the politicians of all stripes are invested in it and is familiar to them.

    As you know this dysfunctional system was bestowed on Lebanon by the French after WW1 and they played the favorite game at the time. I doubt that they had any inkling how demographics and geopolitics will change to make the formula unfair or innefectual. No forward thinking on the part of the French back then (least of their worries), as they also had their hand full back home after the devastating WW1. The levant was the fruit of the allied winners. So they sliced and diced Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Palestine and so on. I doubt the slicers and dicers had any care about the future results of their actions. It was now and then kind of situation to be fair.

    But hey we are where we are today. But I’m very encouraged that Lebanon ran succesfully a very respectable and fair election. Albeit, the sectarian quota will have to be eliminated to be further judged as world class.

    As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in one day. As an optimist, I think it will eventually happens, and that will be a glorious day for Lebanon “El Horr”.

    Posted by Ras Beirut | June 8, 2009, 5:41 am
  8. I hope so,

    Posted by norman | June 8, 2009, 5:48 am
  9. Ras Beirut & Norman,
    Don’t blame it on the French, please. The French did not give you a sectarian system. The French gave you Democratic institutions to deal with an existing ‘millet’ system that extends at least 500 years, which worked fine as long as it was administered fairly by the Ottomans. If you could not maintain your Democratic institutions up to date, then that is your problem and not the French. So it is time to grow up and find solutions to your old-age problems. The latest exercise of free and trouble-free voting could be a major step forward for the Lebanese to exhibit some mature attitude and prove to the world, that after 70 years of imperfect exercise of this Democratic governance they are now capable to progress on this road.

    Properly understanding the problem provides you with 90% of the solution. Continuing to blame the French will keep you going in circles and perhaps more upheavals and civil disturbances. This same observation applies to all the other States in the region that are byproducts of the ‘millet’ system.

    Posted by majid | June 8, 2009, 5:58 am
  10. What a laugh! Yeah, let’s thank the former colonial power. They were so great! They had no faults! Vive La France! Idiocy.

    Posted by Majid II | June 8, 2009, 6:01 am
  11. There are many questions that need to be asked now, but we should start with what is by far the most important and urgent. If M8 wins in 2013, will the US cut off aid?

    : )

    Happy election Lebanon. I find it funny that Lebanon and all of Europe voted today, and Lebanon’s election was probably more important.

    Posted by Abraham Rotsapsky | June 8, 2009, 6:12 am
  12. The most surprising question for me is why do we find it surprising when most Lebanese chose to be part of modernity and not a “resistance” country. This should have been a no-brainer, but apparently it isn’t.

    Posted by AIG | June 8, 2009, 6:42 am
  13. Majid,

    What you said is “somewhat fair” but not entirely. Yes there where confessional rivalries in Lebanon during the 400 years of Ottoman rule, but I don’t think the Ottomans tried hard to extinguish it. How could they? that whole empire thrived on the devide and conquer model of governing to maintain control of the vast regions. It was to their advantage to keep the low burning fire going.

    The French & British just picked up the mantle from the Ottomans and sliced and diced, which had practically the same effect but with more opportunity for sowing the seeds of future conflicts.

    What was needed at time is for the French to institute and promote a secular system in Lebanon, but they didn’t.

    I’m not entirely blaming them, and Lebanese share in the blame as well, but I don’t think the French properly analysed the implacation of their decisions on the future of the functioning of the country. That’s all.

    Basically, it could have been done better. Like instituting a secular state from the get go.

    Posted by Ras Beirut | June 8, 2009, 7:00 am
  14. AIG,
    The reason it feels like a surprise is because there was a defeatist atmosphere (local & regional) equating the end of the Bush era to an automatic demise of M14 which was not accurate to say the least.
    many including some of the fine “intellectuals” who comment here tended to predict a M8 hands down victory ( interestingly enough similar to the Debkafile predictions of doom and gloom) and therefore giving the impression that M14 was dead and that most Lebanese were leaning towards the “Resistance” option however, and thank heavens, Feltman and the Patriarch this wasn’t the case!!

    Posted by V | June 8, 2009, 8:01 am
  15. Ras Beirut,
    You still didn’t get it. There was nothing wrong with the Ottomans, at least during the first two or even three centuries of their rule. If you’re not aware, ask the Bulgarians, the Romanians and the many others in that region who welcomed their rule. The Ottomans did not invent the ‘millet’ system. They inherited it and maintained it.
    Secularism cannot be implanted overnight or even over centuries for that matter. It is doubtful that people in your area will fully accept it. Secularism is a religion which when you put it in competition with existing religions you’re asking for trouble. The best the French could do for Lebanon was to institute its democratic governance. It is your duty (or the Lebanese) to learn how to adapt to the system and make it functional.
    The Lebanese did not fail entirely in this experiment but they did pay a heavy price. Now let’s see if they learnt the lesson.

    Posted by majid | June 8, 2009, 8:13 am
  16. A couple of comments:

    1. In resonse to AIG: “…why do we find it surprising when most Lebanese chose to be part of modernity and not a “resistance” country”

    Could you please elaborate on how electing K. Daher (a Feb 14 MP in Tripoli and a well known pro-Bin Ladenite) or Al-Jarrah (the relative of the 09/11 Z. Al-Jarrah” is supposed to be modern? Besides, what is so non-modern about being a resistance country? I mean in concept.

    2. To Ras Beirut: “I hope M14 will …start concentrating on real issues that affect the economy, environment and ending the outdated sectarian quota system”

    They’ve been in power since 30 years and that has not happened. In fact, they did the exact opposite; 50 billion USD national debt and counting; now MP Fatouch and his friends in power can continue with their usual business of wiping out our mountains. Oh, is there a need to mention that they won this election by nailing an A++ on playing the sectarian factor? So, keep hoping.

    3. To Ras Beirut: “M14 has clinched a victory, and that it was due to Aoun’s flip flopping. The majority of the christian electorates saw the flip flopping first hand since 05 and they weren’t about to reward him”

    The way I see it, it was not Aoun who flip – flopped on his national values, but rather some of the so-called independent Christian voters that did. Sadly, the fabricated lies and propaganda about how the Shia in power will establish the “Wilayat el-Fakih” and will make every single Christain woman wear the veil, it was that along with the charm of the petro money that likely caused the swaying flip-flop.

    And one final comment: Michel Aoun and his supporters are the heart and soul of March 14. Not only they stole the date and what it symbolizes, they dance with it on the graves of their dead. All the while, some of the martyrs of the real March 14 are still lying in unmarked mass graves; graves for the most part designed and created by the hands of the new M14.

    Ya, congrats to Lebanon on its new “pro-West” parliament majority or whatever that means.

    Posted by PN | June 8, 2009, 8:14 am
  17. “And one final comment: Michel Aoun and his supporters are the heart and soul of March 14.”

    PN, could you please explain why Mr. Aoun abandoned March 14? I remember, I was in a London hotel watching TV in 2005, Mr. Aoun was being interviewed and he was preparing to go back from exile to Lebanon. The date I remember was just few days before March 14. He did sound to speak most of what March 14 people were advocating. He continued to advocate March 14 principles for quite few months after he returned to Lebanon. But then he suddenly made a 180 degrees turn and eventually put himself in alliance with Syria and Iran. We know that he was instrumental in pushing the Syria Accountability Act in the US congress which would make him an unlikely ally of Syria if not an outright enemy. There are also indications that he lobbied for the UN 1559 resolution which would even put him at a more collision course with the Syrians.

    Why did Mr. Aoun abandon March 14? If his visits to Damascus and Tehran were not flip-flops, then what were they?

    Al-Jarrah family is a huge clan in al-Bekaa. They are all very respectable people. You cannot blame the whole clan because of the misbehavior of a misguided member. Can you? It is just like you are saying the whole Bin Laden family which numbers over 50 respectable businesses spread all over the world is responsible for the acts of one bad apple. Even the US government still has business dealings with the Bin Laden family. So what exactly are you saying about the Jarrah MP?

    Posted by majid | June 8, 2009, 9:55 am
  18. Majid,
    let them have their winge, its gonna be a constant all week, prob month too.Check Elie Skaff,Gibran Bassil,Michel Aoun,Sleiman Frangieh reaction. My God Ive seen some sore losers in my time.
    Instead of playing the blame game and disecting every little incy bit, the FPM could have been far more effective if they kept their nagging mouths shut and did some real work.You have no one else to blame so enough with the 101 excuses.

    Posted by Maverick | June 8, 2009, 11:11 am
  19. Majid,

    The time-line of events that you listed is quite blurry.

    It is missing the fact that the new M14 leaders made the 180 degree, or should I say the 360 degree turn just about the time of Aoun’s retrun from exile in 2005 (perhaps around the time or a couple of months after your London TV episode).
    Running for elections in 2005, didn’t they form a quatret coalition with M8 or as they like to label them as the pro-Syrian pro-Iranian factions in Lebanon? So, according to your interpretation that would be a huge flip-flop especially if one considers that just a couple of months before they were on opposite ends of martyr’s square demonstrations. So, by all means they hopped on the M14 1989 independence train just about 16 years late and they were the first to jump out a couple of months later.

    As to Aoun and the FPM, the trip was a 16- year long, tough and scary ride. They hang on, resisted, and rallied until the very last Syrian soldier left and the very first “free election” took place; 2 events that basically marked the arrival of their train to a successful conclusion of its mission.

    Looking ahead, the course of national coexistence then dictates that one extends an open arm to everyone. They attempted that with all sides including the M8. After a deep dialogue with M8 that lasted over 8 months, they reached common ground on topics vital to the nation’s unity and they co-signed a transparent letter of understanding (and invited all sides to join). As such, perhaps for the first time in Lebanon’s history, they openned the way for varying factions in the nation to talk out their differences rather than fight over them. As the FPM supporters describe it best, engaging the other side with dialogue in the political playground will keep the gun away.

    As to his recent visits to Syria and Iran, they may seem un-orthodox if taken out of context. Naturally, now that their troops have left for good, Syria’s stance becomes that of a neighboring country. Isn’t it said by the many speeches of the government officials that Syria is a neighboring country and they want peaceful and proper relations with it. As I recall, the newly elected president of Lebanon then, the Chief of the Army, the minister of interior, the minister of defense, along with many MPs from all coalitions visited Syria around the same time frame that Aoun made his visits. You may say, there was no reason for him to visit since those were officials that needed to work out important matters of borders and such with their counterparts on the other side of the border. I think the purpose of his visit was and still is as important. Considering the turmoil in our region in the past few years and the orchestrated migrations of minority Christians fleeing the Iraq war zone, Aoun’s visits as a Christian MP to Syria (years after the Syrian troops left) and eventually to Iran, primarily to engage with the Christian minorities in those countries, would fall into this context of reaching out to the other and strengthening one’s roots in the Levant. This move by Aoun does not in any way come to me (a Lebanese Christian) as if he was flip-flopping. To the contrary, it was re-assuring that I won’t be packing my luggage and migrating to Sweden in the near future.

    As to your 2nd comment regarding the Jarrah family, I apologize if my expression may have come across as if it was inclusive of the whole clan. I do aggree with you that one should not generalize a person’s behavior to those at close proximity. Yet, my comment was in response to the “modern” or the “pro-West” tag. It is quite obvious that the electorate he represents is far from embracing “modern” or “pro-Western” ideals and there is nothing wrong in that. In fact, pro-West and conservative camps exist in all sides of the electoral map. That is the point I intended to make.

    Posted by PN | June 8, 2009, 12:19 pm

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