Elections, Lebanon, My articles

Post-Election Notes

lets-make-a-dealI attended the Carnegie Middle East Center’s post-election seminar this afternoon at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Hamra. Presentations were given by four directors of prominent civil society organizations: Paul Salem (Carnegie MEC), Richard Chambers (IFES), Oussama Safa (LCPS), and Ziad Abdul Samad (LADE).

Richard kicked off the event with one of his excellent PowerPoint presentations (which I may post on the blog shortly).  Ziad talked about the experience of monitoring the elections in light of recent reforms. Oussama discussed the domestic political repercussions of the result, and Paul talked about the broader regional consequences.

I asked the panel a question about what kinds of incremental reforms we might see that could help pave the way for the larger and more ambitious changes prescribed by the Ta’if Accord (viz., a bicameral legislature, administrative decentralization, and proportional representation). Oussama Safa replied that while increased parliamentary oversight and other minor reforms of that nature would be a lovely thing, “Lebanon is basically still controlled by the Dirty Dozen. There are, like, twelve people who make all of the important decisions in the country.” He stopped, thought a minute, and then said: “Well, maybe thirteen.” (Who did he forget, I wondered…)

Paul Salem was slightly more optimistic, pointing out that while none of the big political players and oligarchs had wanted to adopt any of the reforms that made it into the current electoral law, the persistence of a few civil society organizations made all the difference. “While Lebanon’s political system is highly dysfunctional, it is actually also quite fragile and ‘impactable’… with the right kind of pressure, you can make an influence on it,” he said.

On the subject of the blocking veto, everyone was about as vague as Nasrallah was last night. Oussama suggested that we may need “either a Doha Two, or a Ta’if One” if both sides decide to dig their heels in. Paul seemed to think that the mood of reconciliation in the region would mitigate some of the difficulties of forming a cabinet.

My own sense of how things are going to play out over the next couple of weeks is that the two sides are going to test the waters a little bit before committing to any strategies. Hizbullah has visibly climbed down from some of their earlier rhetoric on the blocking veto, suggesting that they would be willing to take “guarantees” instead of a third-plus-one share of cabinet seats. Meanwhile, Saad al-Hariri and Walid Jumblatt have been making conciliatory noises. I’m guessing that each side wants to get a sense of the other’s bargaining position before rushing to a deal or a standoff.

I’ve really enjoyed reading some of the post-election analysis on various blogs. Be sure to check out my buddy Sean’s recent writings, along with Ms. Tee over at B-side Beirut, and Josh Hersh’s new blog. This POMED round-up also has a lot of worthwhile links on the post-election situation.

Finally, I’ve written a briefing on the election for World Politics Review which may or may not be of interest.
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Discussion

39 thoughts on “Post-Election Notes

  1. Paul Salem was slightly more optimistic, pointing out that while none of the big political players and oligarchs had wanted to adopt any of the reforms that made it into the current electoral law, the persistence of a few civil society organizations made all the difference.

    Hizbullah, Amal and the SSNP?

    Posted by alle | June 10, 2009, 1:15 am
  2. Nice piece! But,

    “Massive public debt, widespread corruption, an ailing electricity authority, under-funded public schooling, and a dysfunctional consociational system in urgent need of structural reform will clamor for the attention of the new cabinet.”

    You fail to point out that the people who caused these (particularly father of little Hariri) are the same ones that got their “slim / decisive majority”, whatever that means (you wrote it).

    Posted by John G | June 10, 2009, 1:29 am
  3. Interesting article on WPR. Since I a could not comment there I will do so here.
    There are several points that need to be mentioned.
    1) You wrote about May 7, 2008 as “That was the day that Hezbollah gunmen clashed with pro-government forces in the streets of Beirut after …”
    I really take issue with your usage of the verb “clashed” simply because that verb has a connotation of two groups colliding with each other which keeps ambiguous who was the initiator of those “clashes”. I humbly suggest that “attacked” is the more accurate verb to be used in that context. “Attack” is to start an assault, which is clearly what happened in Beirut and the Mountains. Furthermore, you mentioned Pro-government “forces”. I think that gives the impression of an “organized” group or militia which as we both know was not the case. I only mention this because a reader of the WPR might get the wrong impression.

    2) You identified the FPM as a secular but mostly christian party whereas you identified FM as a Sunni party. While I agree that both parties are mostly Christian and Sunni respectively, the FM, as a party and as a parliamentary block, is probably the most religiously diverse in comparison to any of the other large political parties in this context (Hizballah, Amal, LF, FPM, Kataeb, PSP).

    3)Mikati might well be the eventual PM but I do not think that he is being openly shopped as the front runner. He is certainly a qualified, and more importantly, a mostly neutral and independent figure. That begs the question that if you have an independent/neutral President and Prime Minister then shouldn’t you have a neutral/independent Speaker of Parliament?

    Posted by MM | June 10, 2009, 2:44 am
  4. Question for the audience:

    What is the likelihood that car bombs targeting March 14 will start?

    Isn’t this the pattern everytime a moderate is elected?

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 10, 2009, 2:55 am
  5. It is better to direct your question to Marwan Hamada!

    Posted by Jihad | June 10, 2009, 6:09 am
  6. Mr. Akbar, please check your “moderates” showing, what else, their moderation!

    Posted by Jihad | June 10, 2009, 6:15 am
  7. Posted by Jihad | June 10, 2009, 6:21 am
  8. Akbar Palace The next on the hit list is Sleiman Frangieh; Syria’s lackey in Lebanon. That’s my prediction anyway once STL delivers the verdict pointing to Syria.

    There is going to be plenty opportunity when Frangieh scampers back and forth from Serail and Zgharta.

    Posted by razzouk | June 10, 2009, 7:47 am
  9. One for the explainers.

    I heard many crankily complaining in advance that the coming opposition victory would be translated “Hizballah Wins,” in all but extremely dull international newspapers. Well I’ve seen some vague mentions Hariri-led, anti Syrian, pro-western. Mostly ignored though.

    Well, complain all you like, but at least Hizballah or pro western mean something vague. Even the US’s almost identical two parties have some historic, rhetoric & occasionally policy differences. You know who the church going cowboys are voting for. You know who the ex socialists vote for. You once could even guess who the libertarians would go for.

    So here’s my challenge: What does this Government mean? What exactly won?

    Posted by netsp | June 10, 2009, 7:52 am
  10. Resorting to numbers to confront legitimacy with popularity is an easy argument that overlooks political realities on the ground. When you have identity marked different populations under a single state, you reach a compromise of central representation “corrected” by a federal, confederal or other quota like representations. To take an example far from Lebanon, in Spain, if the basque (the smallest autonomus entity in Spain’s quasi-federal system) parties where to be represented in Madrid in a one man, one vote system, there will never be any elected representation in central power from that community. But “Spain” knows that a big part of the population there is rebellious to central rule, so it accepts to give it a bigger representation in order to maintain it inside the state.

    Posted by mj | June 10, 2009, 8:55 am
  11. For those who can read french, Scarlett Haddad, “l’exception qui confirme la regle” in the staunchly pro M14 french speaking daily, has a quite balanced article about the elections in today’s L’O le Jour

    http://www.lorientlejour.com/article/621192/Lecture__froid_dlections__trs_chaudes.html

    Posted by mj | June 10, 2009, 9:44 am
  12. Question for the audience:
    What is the likelihood that car bombs targeting March 14 will start?
    Isn’t this the pattern everytime a moderate is elected?

    I don’t know Palace. But you seems better acquainted with the patterns. So why don’t you tell us?

    Posted by offended | June 10, 2009, 10:16 am
  13. I had to use my 4 inch thick Oxford dictionary to look up ‘kerfuffle’.

    Wayward, boy.

    Posted by offended | June 10, 2009, 10:28 am
  14. MM,
    May 7 started off with congergations on the street from both sides, which created front lines of opposing mobs in the city. The mobs escalated from name calling, to rock throwing, to shooting. At some point the organized forces (from both sides) stepped in and the shoot-outs began in earnest.

    M8 had declared beforehand demonstrations for that day, as had M14 declared their intention to resist those demonstrations. It was a confrontation that escalated. It was not a sudden attack on a clear blue sky.

    The ‘pro-government’ forces were an ‘organized’ group. They were part of the FM security firms, with barracks, issued weapons, and hierarchy. The fact that they didn’t last for long does not mean they did not exist. Don’t just take Jumblatt’s word for it, there are ample news casts, articles, and eyewitness accounts that show it.

    Posted by RedLeb | June 10, 2009, 11:16 am
  15. More of the same on SC:

    “The popular vote in Lebanon favored the opposition by roughly 15%, but due to the vagaries of Lebanon’s electoral system, March 14 won. Aoun will speak today. Syria and Hizbullah have conceded gracefully.”

    Again, I think this line of argument is a dishonest one. I am against blaming electoral laws “after” the results are out. This electoral law was indeed imposed by the opposition. I would accept discussing the next electoral law from the day after the elections, but not the results which they have promised to accept.

    Back to the debate on “popularity”: by the law of sheer numbers, why give any democratic legitimacy to any election with an abstention higher than 50%?

    Posted by mj | June 10, 2009, 12:39 pm
  16. RedLeb, Juan Cole has this description of events of last year…

    “He (SHN)then overreached in May of 2008, when he came into conflict with the government over his ability to monitor comings and goings at Beirut’s airport, which Hariri wanted to cut off. Nasrallah sent his Hezbollah fighters into the streets of the capital and thus forced the government to back down on the airport surveillance issue.

    This move was a temporary success, but it may have been a strategic failure. For the first time, Hezbollah had turned its arms on other Lebanese, something Nasrallah had earlier pledged never to do, and he deeply harmed the popularity of his movement among Christians and Sunnis. Blind to this change in how he is perceived, he even went so far as to boast in May of this year that the Beirut takeover had been a “glorious moment.”

    http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2009/06/10/lebanon/

    He also seems to think that Obama’s “openings” affected the outcome of the elections.

    Posted by mj | June 10, 2009, 1:18 pm
  17. I don’t know Palace. But you seems better acquainted with the patterns. So why don’t you tell us?

    Offended,

    I am by no means an expert on Lebanese politics, but if I’m not mistaken, the last time the moderates in Lebanon took power, I recall a wave of political assassinations.

    I hope those in office will be well protected.

    http://www.lebanonwire.com/1205/05121301AFP.asp

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4374111.stm

    http://services.inquirer.net/print/print.php?article_id=89574

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/jun/14/syria.clancychassay

    http://tech.mit.edu/V125/N61/61long3.html

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 10, 2009, 1:44 pm
  18. mj,
    While I sympathise with Juan Cole’s politics, I don’t think he has a firm grasp of the facts regarding May 7. The main issue was the telecommunications network, not the airport surveillance. To leave that out entirely makes me think he heard the story second hand, as opposed to tracking the situation himself.

    The key decision on May 5 was to criminalise Hizballah’s communication network. This would have (eventually) led to the army or internal security forces attempting to forcefully dismantle the network and arrest Hizballah members. Nasrallah responded by calling for an open campaign of civil disobedience until the decision is revoked. March 14 responded by calling on their supporters to block the other side’s protesters. It was at the front lines of those demonstrations and counter-demonstrations that organized fighters, from both sides, joined battle.

    Both sides were arming for months before hand; Future’s security companies were expanding and spreading throughout the city; previous demonstrations by March 8 were met with violent resistance with several people shot.

    This was not a case of Hizballah using weapons to overturn a political decision. It was March 14 escalating the situation to the point where they were displaying the willingness to deploy force. I do not know why they did that: whether simply to force Hizballah to use its weapons domestically, or whether they thought Hizballah would back down from using lethal force, or whether they thought they could hold off Hizballah and its allies in urban fighting.

    At any rate, Hizballah’s response was a much more effective use of force that disarmed the other side and forced them into a political compromise. It was risky, and it was deadly, but it avoided a much longer and much deadlier civil war.

    Posted by RedLeb | June 10, 2009, 4:15 pm
  19. RedLeb 17 and 14,
    I don’t want to reopen the May 7 debate, but just because you are repeating, word for word, the Hizb’s official version of events of May 7 does not make them correct my friend. Those demonstrations you keep mentioning were called off by the very same labor unions that called them. Furthermore, even if I wholeheartedly believe your version of events then how can you explain the Hizb attacking the Barrouk area way up in the mountains? Future TV old building was torched because of an electrical shortage? Future TV was forcibly shut down and other FM owned property was ransacked by people from Mars?
    Even if some gullible people still believe the demonstrations fake scenario, then how do you explain Hizb fighters infiltrating the entire area of west Beirut and causing death and/or destruction on most streets. Same applies for “clashes” in the Mountains.
    And as for the security firms everybody keeps touting – well again, even if I give your version of events the benefit of the doubt, then judging by what happened to FM owned property then the FM was justified by hiring security to protect its property. Common sense if you ask any logical person. Those “security” forces did not attack the southern suburbs of Beirut – they were attacked along with any “posts” they were assigned to. Besides, the “Barracks” you mentioned should contain huge caches of weapons – the most we have seen on Hizb owned Al Manar TV, the media sources you reference as proof of your version of events, was a couple of AK-47s. Aoun even admits that his own FPM supporters own personal arms.

    Posted by MM | June 10, 2009, 4:44 pm
  20. RE: May 7, 2008
    The issue started with the cameras installed on the tarmac and not the telecommunications network. You guys are overlooking the important media blitz conducted by Walid Jumblat regarding the cameras which forced the government’s hand. There was if I recall correctly the question of how the plotters of a certain assassination knew about the arrival of a certain assassination victim from abroad.

    The cameras were installed on the tarmac intended for the arrival of dignitaries. This was a major issue for Jumblat and I do not blame him for raising it. It is a very clear breach of sovereignty and state security. The telecommunication network came as a byproduct.

    You still need to tie the episode of May 7, 2008 with the failed two year sit in that Hezb got itself into with no end game in site. Hezb was clearly attempting to force the government to step down by attempting to generate public support for the sit in – the clearest mob behavior on the part of Hezb. This sit in alienated the people of Beirut against Hezb, and in general the Sunnis of Lebanon, even much earlier than May 7, 2008.

    Posted by majid | June 10, 2009, 4:48 pm
  21. mj,

    If M14 had won the popular vote by 15% but still gotten fewer seats, would you really be okay with the results? That wouldn’t make you want to rethink the electoral system at all?

    I’ll grant that plenty of democracies have rules that give certain populations disproportionate power, either to protect a minority against a supermajority (Basques in Spain, Scots and Welsh in England) or because of antiquated crap in the constitution that is difficult to remove (the US Senate and Electoral college). But I can’t think of any country that has an electoral system specifically set up to marginalize the poorest population.

    It’s worth reading the Wikipedia article on “Rotten and pocket boroughs.”

    Posted by Abraham Rotsapsky | June 10, 2009, 4:57 pm
  22. Sorry, that should read “Scots and Welsh in the UK”

    Posted by Abraham Rotsapsky | June 10, 2009, 5:04 pm
  23. Abraham Rotsapsky, you ask me “If M14 had won the popular vote by 15% but still gotten fewer seats, would you really be okay with the results?” The answer is yes. I have no ties with any of the contenders, thank goodness. On the other hand, me being ok with it or not is not the point, is the participants in the election being ok, agreeing to an electoral law, and respecting the results, without resorting to byzantine arguments (that can have place BEFORE the elections). That wouldn’t make me want to rethink the electoral system at all? Yes, next time.
    On the other hand, there is no way to calculate the losses of the “opposition” because of the gap between the ‘popular’ and ‘electoral’ numbers (I don’t even know how to put it). That is impossible because all the Christian opposition parties also benefit from the very quota system that gives the Christian population half of the parliament anyway. As I said before, I find the debate dishonest, futile and misleading
    As for your last point, with all its perversity, and its precise engineering in order to assure the continuity of the confessional state, “specifically set up to marginalize the poorest population” would definitely be an overstretch definition. I remind you once more that the actual election low was considered a gift given by Hezbollah to Tayyar.

    Posted by mj | June 10, 2009, 6:44 pm
  24. Correction: I meant electoral law, not election low.

    Posted by mj | June 10, 2009, 6:52 pm
  25. MM,
    I do agree with Hizballah’s version of events. But I’m not getting talking points from them. I compiled my own version of events from the reporting of the events as they happened.

    The labor unions pulled out of the demonstrations because they knew their would be an escalation. I did not at any point say the demonstrations were labor union ones. They were called by Nasrallah in his speech post May 5.

    What happened in the mountains was actually much worse than what happened in Beirut. Most of the casualties on May 7 happened there (over 50 dead). What started it was that two Hizballah members were kidnapped and killed. Hizballah’s response was, in my opinion, disproportionate.

    The actual fight in the mountains was not reported on as it happened. I do not know what happened. Jumblatt’s people say that Hizballah tried to invade and they fought them off. Hizballah’s version is they sent up a patrol to look for the kidnapped men. The patrol was surrounded by Jumblatt’s men and so the Hizb fought to extract them.

    The initial killing of the two Hizballah members was confirmed by Jumblatt himself who condemned it, attributed it to out of control members of his party, but took personal responsibility for it (in attempt to avert attacks on people).

    I think the actions of Hizballah in the mountains are the most problematic but, paradoxically, the least complained about. There was no rampage of death and destruction in Beirut. The FM ‘barracks’ or ‘posts’ were handed over to the army as they were cleared and most of the weapons were confiscated by the army. They were indeed mostly AK47s. The army was not going to leave those just lying around.

    I personally saw one of the barracks in Hamra months before May 7. It was not a security ‘post’. It was an entire building of armed personnel.

    Finally, I am not saying that May 7 was a good and glorious thing to do, nor that there wasn’t unnecessary loss of life. What I am saying is that it was the least bad of several options.

    Posted by RedLeb | June 10, 2009, 9:26 pm
  26. majid,
    The cameras were actually installed on a storage container that overlooked the tarmac. As shown vividly in a New TV report, there is an entire neighborhood of houses overlooking the same tarmac. It would have been much easier to simply post someone at a house to watch the planes arrive.

    The May 5 decisions dealt with the telecommunication network, and the transfer of the airport security officer due to ‘ties to Hizballah’. Which makes me wonder: if you really have your man in your airport who could actually monitor everyone leaving and coming, why would you need to install cameras?

    As for using a sit in to cause the down fall of the government, isn’t that what March 14 did to cause the Karami government to fall?
    Mob behavior all round I guess. Or maybe its within people’s right to protest.

    Posted by RedLeb | June 10, 2009, 9:35 pm
  27. RedLeb,

    I’m not going to argue your version of the cameras. But I have a big issue in comparing a 2 year sit in with a protest that happened in a huge demonstration showing clear popular disapproval of the government. The M14 protest in 2005 didn’t last two years and there was no comparable sit in opposite the ’serail with armed men patrolling the camp of ’narjilah’ smoking so-called protester.

    There is a huge difference between an orderly protest and the one that Hezb conducted which can only be described as an imposed regime of street mobs.

    The process of delegitimizing Hezb’s weapons was initiated by none other than Hezb due to its shortsightedness, beginning with this mobster event

    What you are doing now is nothing but an attempt to justify campaign shortcomings in order to rally troops and absorb the shock. That is understood. But the facts cannot be overlooked, particularly at this stage. Because what we have witnessed should be a cause for self criticism in order to go forward. Otherwise, Lebanon would be at loss due to yet another generation of Lebanese who would once again make themselves the laughing stock of the neighborhood and the world at large.

    Posted by majid | June 10, 2009, 10:02 pm
  28. majid,
    The difference is that Karami resigned, will Siniora did not. He did not ‘bat an eye’ at the sight of a huge number of his state’s citizenry in protest. I was at both protests and they were both orderly and casual. Maybe the first was more fashionably dressed than the latter, but these aren’t things I judge people by.

    M8 made a lot of mistakes in their election campaign, but I did not refer to it in any of my posts. I have no troops to rally or absorb shocks for. I’m simply arguing for what I perceive to be the case.

    Posted by RedLeb | June 10, 2009, 10:17 pm
  29. Redleb,
    maybe you get your news from Al-Manar, cos your reasoning is text book pro-M8.
    Ill shed some light on the incident,or the incursion into the mountains, since I live there,have a relative in Jumbos inner circle, watch news outlets on a broad scale,and you get the rest.
    I wont deny the killing of the two HA members, but that came after the belligerent and anarchic show of violence in Beirut.Check photos…you might see a funeral procession whereby HA gunmen fired indiscrimanetly killing 7 mourners in cold blood.Amongst the numerous horrific acts, there was pictures of a group of civilians bieng tied with their heads to the walls as if they were Isreali prisoners. All this, while the gunmen gleefully smoke their arguilles.Now im sure every citizen of Lebanon is sensitive towards his own sect,so it came of no surprise when the Druze became alarmed furthermore by that picture of the captured civilians tied down,and amongst them was a Druze shiekh. Not that he was diff then the rest, but symbollically it shook the community.
    Now if i was to believe HA retaliated by sending a patrol into the mountains, I would ask why they used a convoy of military vehicles, medium to heavy arsenal,killed civilians in cold blood ( A druze shiekh was shot point blank in the back of the head while giving his weapon to the army), bombarded civilian houses(My uncles house was one of them even though there was nobody in the house,just cos it had the PSP flag hanging from its balcony), and most peculiarly went after strategic positions- Chouefat(Predominately Druze town nestled between Shiaa dominated towns), the 888 hill in Aley overlooking a huge piece of land including th Beirut, Barouk-the epicentre of the shouf and another strategic overlook.
    The HA gunmen who were killed was due to the defense of the mountain population, infact there was a further 200 captured ready to go under the knife if it werent for the calm orders from Joumblatt.Its well known that Berri had called Joumblatt begging him to release 4 captured men that are dear to him.
    The size and sheer verocity of the incursion into Beirut and the mountains spelled a pre-organizing before 7 of May, and a follow up of the thuggish tactics of HA that failed to bring the ruling coalition to its knees. Lets not be blind and keep justifying atrocities in the name of righteousness.

    Posted by Maverick | June 10, 2009, 11:59 pm
  30. Abraham Rotsapsky,

    Please see comment 3 here

    The commenter has debunked in this comment the whole basis upon which this so-called study is based. His argument clearly shows that whoever conducted this study (obviously from Hezb camp) had the intended purpose of skewing the results in order to none other than rallying troops after a loss as I have been saying all along.

    Posted by majid | June 11, 2009, 1:39 am
  31. Seriously, what kind of a misguided gronk is Paul Salem? Read his latest in the Daily Star: “The March 14 coalition’s victory is good news for Lebanon and the region, ensuring good relations with Lebanon’s Arab and Western friends, and constituting a quiet triumph for moderation and pragmatism over extremism and confrontation. It is also good news for the Obama administration, which had feared a regional setback soon after Obama’s historic address in Cairo on June 4.”
    Because the Lebanese should care about what Obama’s ‘triumph’ and the ‘moderate’ M14, when M14s economic policies have done nothing but further impoverish the Lebanese. Both sides would have courted East and West, both sides would have maintained the sectarian system that is strangling Lebanon, but I don’t think both sides would have maintained the neo-liberalist (or fascist capitalist as a friend put it) economic agenda that PM Sinoyra has.

    I also think that the academic elite a la Paul Salem forget that Hizbullah recognises, perhaps more so than any other party, Lebanon’s highly pluralist and multiconfessional nature. I find it very interesting that the party that is represented as the most stanchly sectarian is also the one party that is most engaged in a political rhetoric that embraces Lebanon’s pluralism and the need for national consensus.

    M14’s victory is also the victory of the LF and Phalangists. Why is it that the elite of Lebanon are so offended and distressed by Hizbullah, and the very undiplomatic Aoun, (perhaps a result of their constituents lower socioeconomic status and their not so western-dressed followers) but have nothing to say about the racism that is an inherent feature of the LF and Phalangists agenda? The philosophy that underpins these right wing, quasi-fascist parties has hardly been reconstructed since the 1980s and yet not a word of caution from our elitist political commentators.

    Posted by the Sydneysider | June 11, 2009, 2:21 am
  32. Don’t worry Sydneysider man there is enough elitist intellectuals in the Arab world arguing on the side of the leftover leftists, dictators or Islamic fundamentalist nihilists
    What I don’t understand is people who live in the west and enjoys all what the west has to offer like democracy, freedom of speech etc. Yet they turn around and defend medieval ideologies such as that of Hezbollah!!

    Posted by V | June 11, 2009, 5:34 am
  33. V –
    Firstly, I’m a female.

    And secondly, if you bothered to read my post correctly, you would see that I did not defend Hizbullah, and am well aware of their sectarian limits. But I am also aware of their reconstructed sense of self, and how they see a need to fit into the larger mosiac that is Lebanon. What have the LF and Phalangists done, internally, to rethink their own racist values.

    I live in Australia but if I lived in Lebanon or Pakistan or India or KSA I would no less value democracy. Hizbullah does not represent a deconstruction of or attack on ‘democracy’ than any other party that is involved in Lebanon’s complicated political system. Your linking of these two ideas is a complete furfy.

    Evidently you know nothing about Hizbullah’s ideologies which, many would describe, as being engaged in a modern discourse and modern challenges, rather than medieval ones. But your own prejudices would never allow you to access that party without seeing it as an offensive and dated entity.

    Perhaps you could also address why it is the two main Maronite parties in M14 that continue to present themselves and their community as ‘special’ and above the Arabs and Muslims that surround them. If Hizbullah is medieval, as you claim, in its outlook, then what can you say about a sub-discourse in Maronite ideology which still sees itself as culturally and biologically linked to the 4000 year old ancient civilisation of the Phoenicians? One does not need to accept the Shia party in order to engage in a critical disposition regarding the LF and the Phalange. Please don’t represent me as doing so because I am not.

    Posted by the Sydneysider | June 11, 2009, 6:07 am
  34. Ms. Sydneysider sorry for the gender mix up.
    You say:
    “I also think that the academic elite a la Paul Salem forget that Hizbullah recognises, perhaps more so than any other party, Lebanon’s highly pluralist and multiconfessional nature. I find it very interesting that the party that is represented as the most stanchly sectarian is also the one party that is most engaged in a political rhetoric that embraces Lebanon’s pluralism and the need for national consensus”
    Somehow I interpret the above statements as defense of Hezbollah. Other than political rhetoric can you explain how exactly Hezbollah embraces pluralism and national consensus? Was it when they stormed Beirut? Or when they organized a sit in that paralyzed the country for a year or so, or was it when they launched a military assault on Israel with total disregard to consequences or consensus.
    One should perhaps understand more the inside workings of an organization like Hezbollah and not the rhetorical speeches, I doubt you are aware of the totalitarian and oppressive measures they exercise over the areas they control, and certainly you need to understand more their involvement in terrorism and its detrimental effect on Lebanon.

    It is evident the danger of Hezbollah on the Republic of Lebanon far exceeds that of a “Maronite ideology which still sees itself as culturally and biologically linked to the 4000 year old ancient civilisation of the Phoenicians”.

    Whether we like it or not those “Phoenician Maronites” are the reason Lebanon is so special and unique in a neighborhood of let’s say unforgiving ideologies.

    Posted by V | June 11, 2009, 8:42 am
  35. mj,

    You write “I remind you once more that the actual election law was considered a gift given by Hezbollah to Tayyar.”

    Interesting. Why did Hezbollah agree to such a crummy arrangement? Were these districts the best they could get? There is no reason the mandated sectarian distribution requires that heavily Muslim areas have more voters per representative.

    Oh, and Syndeysider, while I have no love for people who use the “Phoenician” appellation to distinguish themselves from and act superior toward Arabs, as an archaeologist’s son I am thrilled that there are people in the world who identify with a lost and ancient civilization. Especially one renowned for trade as opposed to war (Hannibal excepted). If only we still had some Etruscans, or Hittites.

    Posted by Abraham Rotsapsky | June 11, 2009, 9:43 am
  36. Maverick,
    Textbook Pro-M8 would be a lot more righteous about the fight in the mountains. I’ve already said it was problematic and disproportionate. The problem is that there were no live news feeds during it. I have my share of sources in the mountains and the narratives were too partisan to take at face value. I’ve heard multiple stories of who called who asking for mercy. There was a lot of bravado on both sides.

    But you said that two Hizballah members were killed, that a Shiekh was handing over his gun to the army, and that there were ‘200 people under the knife’. That doesn’t sound like unarmed civilians to me. One point I am trying to make is that it was a battle between rival gunmen, not a rampage among defenceless neighbourhoods.

    Of course there was a build up before May 7. Both sides were getting armed. It was the talk of the town and in all the news papers. But this is something the Pro-M14 narrative refuses to admit. You insist on seeing it as an attack by a militia against civilians, but still boast of holding 200 of these armed and dangerous gunmen under the knife.

    As for the factual items: I do remember the attack on the funeral procession, instigated by a store owner as the procession walked by his store. He ran off but was soon apprehended and turned over to the army. It was not planned or condoned by any side.

    M8 gunmen were holding lots of people, disarming them, and handing them over to the army. Its how they disarmed the other side. That is not horrific. Halba was a horrific act.

    I’m also aware it was not about the Angles of Light vs. the Demons of Darkness. I’m sure there were cases of harassment, abuse, and revenge killing by M8 gunmen. But those were not the battle orders. If they were, the death toll would have been much higher.

    Posted by RedLeb | June 11, 2009, 10:49 am
  37. Mr. Rotsapsky, I usually prefer to ask questions than to answer them in this blog. For, even in the case my shaky knowledge of the Lebanese system allowed me to give you definite answers (which it doesn’t), my poor English wouldn’t allow me to do it in the way you certainly deserve. But I think some light is being shed in other sites, which I recommend you to take a look at:

    http://besidebeirut.wordpress.com/, Ms Tee’s watchtower.

    On the other hand, the ideas I expressed in my conversation with you come more from a matter of principle than anything else. As I told you, I am in no position of pontificating about Lebanese politics. But I would LOVE to have a clear take on this popularity metrics brouhaha from our recently appointed candidate to be Minister of Youth and various other fields to which I will add Hard Work, Intellectual Honesty and Beautiful Left Hand.

    Posted by mj | June 11, 2009, 11:31 am
  38. On the other hand, the ideas I expressed in my conversation with you come more from a matter of principle than anything else. As I told you, I am in no position of pontificating about Lebanese politics. But I would LOVE to have a clear take on this popularity metrics brouhaha from our recently appointed candidate to be Minister of Youth and various other fields to which I will add Hard Work, Intellectual Honesty and Beautiful Left Hand.

    (He also has the best “La vache qui fume” I’ve ever seen. Maybe one day we’ll know everything about the header on this blog…
    But if his popularity keeps growing at the pace it is now,a cow won’t do it. We’ll have to send him an EYE and a big FISH to protect his star, or may somebody start saying nasty things about QN, now, please.

    Posted by mj | June 11, 2009, 11:55 am
  39. I also find that QN has the best “La vache qui fume” I’ve ever seen. Maybe one day we’ll know everything about the header on this blog…
    But if his popularity keeps growing at the pace it is now,a cow won’t do it. We’ll have to send him an EYE and a big FISH to protect his star, or may somebody start saying nasty things about QN, now, please.

    Posted by mj | June 11, 2009, 11:57 am

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