Elections, Lebanon

Deconstructing the Popular Vote

wimbledon

Scarcely a day goes by without an opposition leader reminding the Lebanese public about which side won the popular vote in the last election. Interestingly, though, I have not yet read much analysis that attempts to explain exactly how the opposition managed to win as much as 10% more of the popular vote while still losing the election.

Kamal Feghali, a pollster said to be sympathetic to the opposition, has released a final report on the elections. On the second-to-last page, he provides a very helpful graph that shows how many votes the two coalitions received in each district, the winning percentages, and the margins of victory. I’ve reproduced the graph below as a JPEG for your convenience.

popularvote

Studying the results, it becomes clear that the winning percentages in opposition-won districts are, in general, much higher than those of loyalist-won districts. In particular, the winning percentages in Hizbullah/Amal-dominated districts are absolutely enormous, ranging from 77% (Marjeyoun) to 88.1% (al-Zahrani) to 93.2% (Bint Jbeil). By contrast, the March 14-won districts have far lower winning percentages, coming in at an average of 61.2% based on my calculations, versus 88% in Hizbullah/Amal districts.

Higher winning percentages — particularly in large districts — translate into higher margins of victory. The problem with high margins of victory, however, is that they don’t amount to any additional electoral gains; winning a district by a single vote is just as good as winning it by 100,000 votes, as far as getting elected is concerned.

To illustrate this problem, let’s imagine a tennis game between me and Roger Federer. For the first two sets, I dominate him, winning 6-0, 6-0. In the third set, I’m winning 5-0 and serving for match point when the tide suddenly turns and Roger roars back, eventually winning the set 7-5. The same thing happens in the fourth and fifth sets, and Roger, alas, wins the match.

Who do you think won more games in that match, Roger or QN? As it turns out, I did, winning 27 (6+6+5+5+5) to his 21 (0+0+7+7+7). And yet, I couldn’t win when it counted most.

The numbers in Feghali’s election graph tell a similar story. Let’s take a look at the six opposition-won districts with the highest margins of victory: Baalbek (94,841 votes), Sour (66,470), Nabatieh (56,112), Bint Jbeil (48,687), al-Zahrani (40,662), and Marjeyoun (37,000). All told, the opposition earned 343,782 more votes than its opponents in these districts. (Remember, these figures reflect margins of victory, not total votes. In other words, they are “surplus votes” earned beyond the 50% needed to win the district).

Now let’s look at the six loyalist-won districts with the highest margins of victory: Beirut III (51,619), Akkar (36,000), Shouf (35,453), Tripoli (25,366), Miniyeh/Dinniyeh (21,636), and Aley (13,053). All told, March 14 earned 183,127 more votes than its opponents in these districts.

If we subtract March 14’s surplus votes in its biggest districts from March 8’s surplus votes in its biggest districts, we are left with 160, 655 votes, which is nearly the difference in the popular vote results. In other words, had March 8 won its districts by the same margins of victory that March 14 won its districts, the difference in the popular vote would be practically negligible.

Conclusions: The reason that March 8 won 165,000 votes more than March 14 and yet still lost the election is essentially because Hizbullah and Amal trounced their opponents by an average of 88%, winning tens of thousands of votes more than they needed in their districts.  By comparison, March 14 won its districts by an average of 61.2%, with far more modest margins of victory. The difference in “surplus votes” between the top six districts for each coalition produces a net gain of 160,000 votes for the opposition.

Michel Aoun’s Change & Reform bloc, by contrast, won its districts by an average of around 56.5%, so it is a little bit disingenuous for Aoun and Frangieh to say that they reflect the popular will. The discrepancy in the popular vote was not generated by their own supporters but rather by Hizbullah’s and Amal’s.
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Discussion

46 thoughts on “Deconstructing the Popular Vote

  1. The problem is gerrymandering. It is clear that the districts are set in such a way so that the Shia vote is heavily concentrated in a few districts where Hizballah and Amal get a huge margin. Thus, most of the wasted votes in Lebanon are Shia. In a country as small as Lebanon, only a proportional system would be fair.

    Posted by AIG | June 22, 2009, 11:20 pm
  2. Thank you for posting this.

    But what would be really interesting is to have a deconstruction of the vote by sect. We still do not know precisely if the percentage of the Christian vote won by the FPM is superior to 50 % or not.

    This is of particular importance in Baabda or Jbeil where FPM is accused of having won thanks to chiite voters.

    An article in today’s An Nahar indicates that it is not the case in Baabda, where Tayyar won more than 51.9 % of maronites, more than 60 % of orthodox, and even, surprisingly, 52.9 % of the sunni vote.

    http://www.annahar.com/content.php?priority=3&table=mahaly&type=mahaly&day=Tue

    I also think Tayyar won the Christian votes in Jbeil. The margin was 9000 votes while only 6500 chiites voted.

    I am not sure about the average percentage in all of Lebanon though.

    Posted by Patrick | June 22, 2009, 11:29 pm
  3. *Cough* bullshit *cough*

    “Counting” votes in districts in the South and Bekaa where Hizballah has an armed presence, and where the only expression of political opinion is a shoot-out between AMAL and Hizballah over posters of Nabih Berri and Nasrallah, respectively, is a bit disingenuous. Talking about votes in those districts after a campaign of violent intimidation by those groups against other “Shiite” groups that voiced dissenting opinions is disingenuous. Quoting numbers from a pro-Syrian “pollster” is disingenuous. Tony gives a good round-up on the garbage printed by some of the country’s fake pollsters.

    Posted by Blacksmith Jade | June 23, 2009, 12:28 am
  4. There’s a parallel to this in America. Heavily black areas are overwhelmingly Democratic. The Republicans try to gerrymander all the black areas into mainly black districts where the Dem wins with 90% of the vote (literally). Dem gerrymanders split up these strongholds to create several majority but not overwhelming majority Dem districts (look at how Baltimore got sliced up in the Maryland congressional district map, for example). While I want Dems to win, I have to admit that keeping communities together has some merit to it. It happens to work against March 8 here but philosophically it is justifiable.

    Blacksmith Jade raises an interesting point. Rightly or not, the perception that certain areas are are essentially undemocratic becomes a much bigger deal under a system of proportional representation. Now it doesn’t matter if Hizballah wins Bint Jbeil by 80% vs. 97%, under proportional representation it would.

    Posted by Abraham Rotsapsky | June 23, 2009, 12:50 am
  5. Al Gore won the popular vote back in 2000, but it was Bush that defined US foreign policy the years thereafter. In a majority voting system, this is how it can go. Next time around, it might tilt the other way. The reason for majority voting systems is that it, more often than not, provides for strong governments. Sweden has a proportional voting system, and the Social Democrats, usually with around 35-40 percent of the vote, are the single largest party and make up the whole cabinet, with a not a single seat going to the Left or the Greens. It is accepted, though. (Last election they lost, however).

    In Lebanon it does not provide for a strong government. It could, but as the majority can not govern in all aspects vested in it due to certain groups undercutting government rule, it can not. Not to mention Lebanons confessional system which by default, almost, makes for weak governments unless everybody is represented.

    Posted by Doc | June 23, 2009, 2:11 am
  6. This is just stupid since 1′ march didn’t even have lists in the south,

    they justed concentrated on where it counts,

    Posted by LF_france | June 23, 2009, 3:52 am
  7. Abraham,

    Of course the same can be said about the electoral college. A number of times a president has won the election but lost the popular vote.

    BTW, are you an Orioles fan? 😉

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 23, 2009, 7:51 am
  8. Congrats for this deconstruction of the popular vote. It’s very convincing. I discovered your blog of late, and have become an avid reader.
    Your approach in this DECONSTRUCTION was to tackle individually the different constituencies so as to go beyond their aggregative effect. I think you should go a bit further in this breakdown of the aggregative effect.
    People have been approaching these elections with two figures in mind: 71, 57. As if it was a simple score between two players. But we all know that there is more than two players in Lebanese politics and that the extreme binary polarisation in Lebanese politics hides precarious electoral and political alliances. Each camp includes so-called “independent” MPs that sometimes strike alliances across the binary division (ex: Murr with Berri, el-Khalil with Jumblatt) and others can always shift camps or choose a third camp when the moment comes.

    After deconstructing the popular vote, I think one should go a step further and deconstruct the binary approach to the elections. Each electoral camp is made up of political groups that have distinct (& sometimes opposing) interests, distinct communal and regional audiences and constituencies and distinct (& sometimes opposing) agendas (ex: FPM vs Amal or Democratic Gathering vs the christian Neo-Helf)…

    Posted by worriedlebanese | June 23, 2009, 8:14 am
  9. Blacksmith Jade

    I think you misunderstood the point of this post, which was to explain how exactly the opposition could win so many more votes than March 14 and yet still lose the election.

    The issues you raise are tangential, and so it is not disingenuous to ignore them.

    The basic question I was trying to answer was: “Where did these extra 160,000 votes come from, and how was it that they did not translate into more parliamentary gains?”

    The answer seems to be: “They came from huge landslides in Hizbullah- & Amal-dominated districts, not from the performance of C&R candidates across the country.”

    Someone else — you, for example — could now take the analysis a step further and argue, for example: “The landslides that Hizbullah and Amal won were the product of voter intimidation, coercion, etc. and so do not really reflect the popular will…”

    But that was not the point of my piece. As such, I think it’s a bit disingenuous (!) to call it bulls**t.

    😉

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 23, 2009, 8:28 am
  10. Oh come on, lets be serious here. You absolutely can’t seperate the garnering of “160,000 votes” in what is supposed to be an exercise in democracy, from the very undemocractic, outright violent and autocratic, way in which some of them were obtained, or in which opponents were barred from obtaining.

    Posted by Blacksmith Jade | June 23, 2009, 1:14 pm
  11. QN

    Al gore got 1 percent higher popular vote and lost the election and many democrats thought it was really not fair … imagine if the margin of popular vote for Gore was as wide as that of the M8 opposition this year.

    I think it is a failure in the system. But of course, in Doha this system was approved by the opposition and they can’t complain for now. But .. this is not democracy… it is a fun game.

    Also, going beyond this election year to the bigger issues, you have to ponder the fact that when you get 90% votes for one religious party among a large percentage of the Lebanese people …

    What should you do about that? … how do you make them trust other Lebanese parties?

    Posted by Alex | June 23, 2009, 1:17 pm
  12. Alex,

    I agree that it’s a failure in the system, but the question is whether the antidote is better districting or a complete overhaul of the confessional system. I prefer the latter approach.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 23, 2009, 2:13 pm
  13. As usual, Alex tries to downplay democracy in Lebanon. Do you still think by the way that Iran is the most democratic state in the middle east?

    “Democratic” is a term that describes a wide spectrum of systems, and of course some are more democratic than others. But there is absolutely no democracy without freedom of speech. It is a necessary condition for democracy. And of that, there is plenty in Lebanon and there is none of it in Syria.

    You are trying to degrade what the Lebanese have. Yes, it is not perfect, but compared to what there is in Syria and Iran, it is 100 times better. Democracy is not all or nothing, as the Arab dictators like to portray it because they want to justify why they haven’t done nothing to democratize their countries.

    Posted by AIG | June 23, 2009, 2:21 pm
  14. QN

    I agree with you … a complete overhaul of the confessional system. Fine tuning took place in Doha and it still led to this year’s failure.

    AIG,

    I am not trying to degrade what the Lebanese have done … Although I think they are fooling themselves if they think of this as “democracy”, they do have freedom of speech which we do not have in Syria. It is not “a 100 times better” but it is considerably better… Syria can learn a lot from Lebanon.

    As for the trio of flawed Middle Eastern democracies (remember the democracy index we discussed on SC last year?)… Lebanon Israel and Iran … religion plays a very negative role in each of these “democracies”

    In Iran: To be able to run, you have to be approved by the Grand Ayatollah

    In Israel: millions of non Jews in the occupied territories have had to wait and see who the Jews (an addition to some of the Arabs) will elect in Israel to find out how it will affect their day to day life as well as their future.

    You do allow the Arab minority in Israel (pre 67) to vote .. but until you get out of the whole west bank and Gaza (without any interference in their affairs, from outside or from inside) then you are not a democracy.

    In Lebanon: The whole system is flawed, I won’t discuss it again.

    It is very simple, if religion is the main foundation and raison d’être of a state, then something serious will go wrong .. often.

    Democracy (Israel, Iran, Lebanon) or not (Saudi Arabia)

    Posted by Alex | June 23, 2009, 3:05 pm
  15. Alex,
    Millions of people in Iraq (many more than in the West Bank and Gaza) had to wait and see who the Americans will elect in America to find out
    “how it will affect their day to day life as well as their future”. Does that make the US not a democracy? Of course not. Israel is a democracy just as the US is. Unless you want to say that both are not democracies, which is fine with me also.

    And for the hundredth time, I am an atheist Jew as many Jews are in Israel and elsewhere. Israel is the nation state of the Jews, not a country for a certain religion. Herzl was completely secular. In fact it is the religious Jews that tend to be non-Zionists. The Jews are a nation with certain customs that others call religion.

    Posted by AIG | June 23, 2009, 3:31 pm
  16. And as for Iran, it is not a democracy by any means. There is no freedom of speech there as we have found out in the last days.

    Posted by AIG | June 23, 2009, 3:33 pm
  17. I’m sorry, but one cannot convert to a nationality in another country by going to see a religious figure. One can, however, convert to Judaism and “return” to Israel. Israel is a religious state, even if many of its citizens are secular, they are still nominally Jewish, and orthodox rabbis still control things like marital and family law. All these attempts to make being Jewish the same category as being French or Egyptian are patently ridiculous.

    Posted by sean | June 23, 2009, 5:32 pm
  18. Sorry Sean, but your ideology is leading you astray. Jews have been around for 3,500 years way before the modern nation state was invented. How did you join a tribe 1000, 2000 or 3000 years ago? You went to the elders and they taught you the customs, checked your sincerity and gave you a test. The elders for the tribe of the Jews are the Rabbis. This is the ORIGINAL way of joining that for some reason you are against.

    The Jews were always a tribe or several tribes and they NEVER were missionary. The Christians and Muslims based their religions on the beliefs of the Jews and made converting critical. But that was NEVER the intent of the Jews. The old testament and the talmud are clear that conversion to Judaism is a radical process that should be greatly discouraged. When you convert, you are in fact not only accepting a belief system but tying your future to that of the Jewish people. See the book of Ruth. Conversion means stopping being from one nation and becoming a member of another.

    In the end you sound just like the people who say that there are no Palestinians. There are Palestinians because it is a basic human right to self determine yourself. And this basic right is allowed to the Jews unless you of course want to be racist. And over the last 100 years or so, most of the Jews have clearly self determined themselves as a nation.

    Posted by AIG | June 23, 2009, 6:02 pm
  19. As usual great write-up QN.

    Well the name of the game for both M8 & M14 was the existing system of quotas, that rendered only few competitive cazas that tipped the needle toward M14.

    Those were the rules, and both campaigns worked hard to win under the existing rules. There was never a talk about popular vote vs the existing rules of engagement leading up to the vote. The issue was only brought up afterward.

    Because of the existing rules, the popular vote count is distorted in my view. The above schedule of the breakdown of those who actually voted only partially explain the difference. What about the folks who didn’t vote at all in cazas that were completely secured by either side? Like Beirut III? Would the voter turn-out have been much higher if the popular vote was the real contest? I would think so. Same goes for the Shia strongholds etc..

    What about folks who didn’t vote because their vote would have been meaningless in cazas that their opponents hold an unsurmountable edge? Could they have contributed to the stats of the popular vote? You bet.

    Better yet, if the popular vote was the true contest, then the strategies/allocation of resources of both camps would have been much different and voter participation would have been much much higher in my oppinion.

    Hopefully, these flaws will go away with the abolishment of the quota/sectarian system. Couple of things to ponder in that case:

    1. Debate what is the proper disticting/cazas sizes and boundaries, keeping in mind the value of local representation.

    2. If the sectarian system is abolished by law, would folks still vote the same way (for their sect’s candidate)? Or would they be mature enough to vote based on merit?
    I think that’s the biggest issue long term.

    Posted by Ras Beirut | June 23, 2009, 9:32 pm
  20. I can see reasons for not having proportional representation in Lebanon, and reasons for. But other than maintaining Christian influence, is there any good reason for not requiring that all districts have a constant ratio of population to representatives? It wouldn’t compensate for the concentrated March 8 voter issue, but it would help close the popular vote/legislative vote divide.

    Alex,

    There are several other major factors that make Iran not a democracy. When reformers gained control of parliament and the presidency in the late 90s, their powers basically included the right to mow the lawn in front of parliament. In a way it’s like Kuwait, which has elected leaders who don’t actually run the country. And now the mullahs admit that in 50 major jurisdictions in Iran, coincidentally all areas in which Ahmadinejad did very well, there were more votes than voters. At best the theocracy can claim that they only stole a few million votes, at worst they made all of the totals up. Either way, this is not democracy. The lack of a free press is a big deal too.

    AP,

    I grew up in the DC area, and the only team of any sort I have loyalty to are the Redskins. It’s been a rough 15 years for us.

    Posted by Abraham Rotsapsky | June 24, 2009, 2:40 am
  21. QN,

    Nice analysis. It is quite impressive that you actually took the time to dissect it; not as impressive though as going through the Gideon’s Bible in a hotel room.

    Regarding your comment,

    “Michel Aoun’s Change & Reform bloc, by contrast, won its districts by an average of around 56.5%, so it is a little bit disingenuous for Aoun and Frangieh to say that they reflect the popular will. The discrepancy in the popular vote was not generated by their own supporters but rather by Hizbullah’s and Amal’s.”

    Indeed, they made statements about the opposition winning the popular vote. However, when was it that either one said that he reflects the popular will per say? I might have missed it, and have to admit that I do not follow all of MP Frangieh’s interviews. However, my impression from GMA’s interview with Maggie Farah on OTV and his recap of the 1st C&R bloc meeting post election was that he approached the election results realistically. He did acknowledge that the FPM fell short of expectations (and that much work still lies ahead) and that even though the number of MPs in the bloc increased compared to 2005, the popular support in the predominantly Christian districts declined from ~70% to near 50%.

    Considering that it took the collective efforts of his opponents under the F14 umbrella to get under 50% of the votes, then I would still consider him as the most popular in those districts.

    Anyhow, I second the comments made by Ras Beirut (post#19) and I aggree with you that a “complete overhaul of the confessional system” would likely provide a better platform for future elections. Honestly, I don’t think that many Lebanese from either camp are ready for it yet.

    On another note, what are the chances that you would actually score a 6-0 set against Federer? just curious!

    Posted by PN | June 24, 2009, 3:47 am
  22. Dear Qifa,

    I must say that your point was almost convincing when I noticed that you forgot something very important. I don’t really think you analysed the ‘Shi’a vote’ properly, in the sense that if the areas that voted for Hizbullah and Amal could have voted for Tayyar (in some other system) then I bet that Aoun would have gotten way more votes.

    In a sense, you analyze the confessional system in a very confessional way, i.e. with confessional concepts, while at the same time assuming an purportedly objective analysis. I don’t know if you get what I mean, but I fear this could be dangerous, especially when you couch that in a ‘liberal’ some how ‘western’ academic political science analysis of ‘deconstructing votes’.

    I can explain better if need be.

    Posted by bech | June 24, 2009, 6:06 am
  23. Hi Bech

    I don’t quite understand the point you are making. My goal was to figure out where the extra 160,000 votes came from, and they seemed to come from southern districts that voted overwhelmingly for Hizbullah and Amal with extremely high margins of victory.

    I’m not analyzing the confessional system, much less in a confessional way. I’m analyzing this electoral law. In fact, I never use the expression “Shi`a vote” or even the word “Shi`a”.

    But please elaborate so I that we can have a discussion about it.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 24, 2009, 7:02 am
  24. It seemed to me that you had to goals in this article (forgive me if I’m wrong). one is to show that you can have more votes overall but still loose, the other is to show that Hizbullah/Amal reflect more the popular vote than Tayyar. Even if not explicitly worded like this it still reads like this.

    I just disagree with the second affirmation especially that, deriving from the first (namely that the electoral system in Lebanon is not representative), you actually could have thought that in Hizbullah/Amal denominated areas Tayyar could have won more (thus reflecting the popular vote). That is if the system was not based on confessional politicking.

    These are the observation. Now the criticism is that you condemn Tayyar too quickly, inasmuch as you don’t think of that eventuality.

    Look at me defending the Tayyar, I’m not really part of it, but I have to say that if the system was truly representative you would be amazed of how many seats they could have had. This is where I say that the “Shi’a vote” could be very close to the Christian “less-right-wing-than-others” vote.

    Posted by bech | June 24, 2009, 7:29 am
  25. I meant in the beginning “it seemed to me you had 2 goals…”

    Posted by bech | June 24, 2009, 7:31 am
  26. I grew up in the DC area, and the only team of any sort I have loyalty to are the Redskins. It’s been a rough 15 years for us.

    Abraham Rotsapsky,

    Yes, I miss the “Hogs”, Riggins, Green, Theisman, and the great ‘Skins teams of the 80s.

    I still don’t know why they couldn’t keep the Senators name from years ago, but the Nationals are playing about as good. I like the old script “W” on the caps…

    How did you become interested in ME/Lebanese issues? Feel free to email me a palace.akbar@gmail.com

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 24, 2009, 8:10 am
  27. Is it strictly necessary to have Amal/hezballah represented in Government? Could they not simply appoint a certain number of Shiites from another parties.

    Posted by netsp | June 25, 2009, 12:36 am
  28. netsp,

    No, it is not necessary to include the Hizb and Amal in the new government. It wasn’t necessary in 2005/6 either, but the powers that be decided then that they ought not to rock the boat too much.

    They could simply appoint Shiite personalities outside Amal and the Hizb, if they can find people who are prepared to run the political gauntlet of being against the grain of the prevailing attitudes of their own sect. If such people could be found now, I am sure they did exist back in 2005/6 and would have been named to replace the shiite ministers who submitted their resignation.

    On a practical level, such a move would certainly lead to, at least, widespread civil disobedience in vast areas of Lebanon primarily the south, east (Beqa’) and more dangerously Mount Lebanon and Shouf; ask Walid Jumblat.

    Are you Lebanese, netsep? It is an honest question, really.

    Posted by Question Marks | June 25, 2009, 8:42 am
  29. Shu qifa?

    Posted by bech | June 25, 2009, 9:34 am
  30. Hi Bech

    Sorry, I got sucked into other things.

    I understand your point now. Yes, you may be right about the second issue, that Aoun enjoys support from Hizbullah and Amal partisans, so maybe I was too hard on him. Still, he and Frangieh seem to be behaving far more arrogantly on the issue of their local “support” than Hizbullah and Amal. Plus, it would seem that the support of Hizbullah partisans for Aoun is entirely conditional on the FPM’s stance toward the weapons. The FPM political platform is mostly indistinguishable from Future/LF/Kata’eb in all other respects, so it’s not like Aoun’s popularity among the hundreds of thousands of voters in Baalbek, Bint Jbeil, etc. is so deep that it could withstand a change in policy vis-a-vis the weapons.

    But you make a good point.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 25, 2009, 11:38 am
  31. Great analysis! While your explanation for why the opposition lost but gained more votes is spot on.

    2 points:

    1. In the district of Jezzine where the FPM beat Amal, it was mainly through the strong support of Hezbollah supporters in the region. A interesting point when it comes to Aoun being able to talk about popular support. I think it is unfair to pose the hypothetical question about the weapons in so far as that there policy is what it is…would Hariri and Kataeb be together if Gemayel decided the weapons were OK?

    2. At the moment in the current political envi of Lebanon all parties are confessional and so what is of real importance is if you gain that confessional majority….from your analysis what have you decided on the all important question of who represents the majority of Christians now?

    Posted by deensharp | June 26, 2009, 8:41 am
  32. I love it how Akbar Palace, the most senior of our Jewish readers makes sure to coordinate things among all of them … part of his duties of disrupting intelligent Arab blogs.

    Here is his standard offer whenever he encounters a new Jewish sounding name online:

    “How did you become interested in ME/Lebanese issues? Feel free to email me a palace.akbar@gmail.com

    Posted by Alex | June 26, 2009, 3:37 pm
  33. AIG,

    The point you made about the the similarity between the US and Israel, in the sense that they both heavily influence the life and future of Arabs (in Iraq and Palestine, respectively) is valid in a limited way… I actually made that same point last year on SC. I said that if the US is planning to invade other countries (like Iran) then it would be really nice if before that invasion decision is made to allow the citizens of the countries about to be invaded to vote to pick their next American president .. to be able to say if they want to be “helped” through an American occupation or not … Otherwise it is a case of a flawed democracy.

    I was sarcastic to some extent f course.

    The US did not occupy Iraq since 1967 … the US recognizes the sovereignty of Iraq … the US is not designed to protect and promote the interests of one religion (or tribe, the Jewish Tribe) like Israel.

    Posted by Alex | June 26, 2009, 3:44 pm
  34. LOL

    Alex, I noticed that too, but I didn’t want to tease AP about it.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 26, 2009, 3:44 pm
  35. Deen

    Trying to figure that out as we speak…

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 26, 2009, 3:45 pm
  36. Alex,
    The US has much more influence on Arabs than Israel. In addition it puts the interests of American citizens above the interests of all others, that is what it was designed to do. You are trying to portray the US as a democracy while condemning Israel but this of course does not work. Democracies are determined by how they treat their own citizens. And who cares about 67? Israel has been “occupying” Arab land since 1948, no?

    History has clearly shown that democratic revolutions need help from outside. The US revolution would not have succeeded without French help. A couple of Hungarian uprisings didn’t succeed because there was not outside help coming, and I can give countless examples.

    It is so easy for those associated and supporting dictatorships to say: Look, the people do not want help in over throwing the dictator. But how can we know that, especially when the dictator does not allow freedom of speech??? More bluntly, if Asad is so sure that most Syrians support him, he would not have to deny them so many liberties. He would grant freedom of speech and he would not censor the internet. The fact that Asad does not even allow a free dialog about the future of Syria is very telling. He is afraid that most people will actually say that they want some form of democracy and that they want accountable leaders.

    Posted by AIG | June 26, 2009, 4:11 pm
  37. AIG

    1) Thank you for the French revolution lesson of history you chose for us today but, let’s look instead at a couple of newer lessons if you don’t mind: Romania and Iran .. change took place without outside help (invasion).

    Another example that you like more is the million Lebanese people who demonstrated against Syrian presence in Lebanon… no US troops were needed there… the Syrian army did not fire a single bullet at those demonstrating… the Syrian “dictator” did not slaughter them like Israel does every few years in Lebanon when it feels that its national security requires that sort of action.

    2) Is Israel making the lives of millions of Palestinians in the occupied territories miserable because Israel is helping them become democratic too?

    3) There is a difference between American “influence” on Arabs, and Israeli “influence” on the millions of occupied Palestinians .. I am sure you don’t want me to link ten You tube videos of your lovely Israeli soldiers and their “influence” on Palestinian children and elderly.

    For millions of citizens living in “the territories” Israel is not a democracy… you want to ask them if they want to be occupied by Israel? … want to respect their democratic wishes while they are under your occupation? … or do you only respect the rights of the Jewish tribe (not religion, since you insist)?

    Posted by Alex | June 26, 2009, 4:27 pm
  38. Alex,
    1) Really, change happened in Romania without help? Without EU financial help Romania would have never become a democracy. Ceausescu was replaced initially by other communists.

    And what change are you referring to in Iran?

    The overwhelming evidence is that democratic revolutions need all the help they can get, be it financial or military.

    Are you serious about Lebanon? Would Asad have left if it were not for the US Syrian Accountability Act, the fact that there were Americans in Iraq and the threat of UN sanctions. Lebanon is an EXCELLENT example that external help is critical.

    2) From your examples I see that you still do not understand the difference between two peoples at war and a regime being at war with its own people. When Israel is attacked from Lebanon or the West Bank and Gaza, it responds. In fact, the US and Europe even clearly say that it has a right to defend itself. A regime on the other hand, does not have a right to defend itself from the majority of its people. It has to be accountable to them, not vice versa.

    3) Are you serious again? YOU claim that the US is responsible for a million deaths in Iraq. There are Americans committing rape and murder in Iraq. In the “territories” there is a great internet connection (which Israel does not censor) and ample video cameras. Why do we not see gruesome videos everyday, like we see from Iran? In fact, videos with bad behavior are few and far between. This is because the Israeli army acts in a very moral and humane way. And when a video surfaces with inappropriate actions, they are criticized in the Israeli press and action is taken against the soldiers. Let there be free speech in Syria and we will see what videos and reports come out there. In fact, Israel gives Palestinians (its enemies) more freedom of speech than Asad gives his own people. How ironic.

    The people living in the West Bank and Gaza, are living under military rule. Till the first intifada, their economic situation and life were much much better than in neighboring Arab countries. With Oslo and the second intifada, all the trust has disappeared and the two peoples are at war. If one side is winning the war, it does not mean it is not a democracy. The time to negotiate a Palestinian state in the 67 borders was in 67. But as you try to forget, the Arabs decided not to talk to Israel then. They went to Khartoum and came back with the 3 NOs. What did the Arabs expect? That things won’t change on the ground?

    Posted by AIG | June 26, 2009, 8:04 pm
  39. And for those wondering why this discussion isn’t on Syria Comment (Alex’s blog), it is because I am censored there. Technically I am allowed to post but my posts do not show up until I am “moderated” which takes a few days if it happens at all so there is no way for me to really participate in discussions. My ideas it seems are too dangerous for the sensitive Syrian readers of that blog.

    Posted by AIG | June 26, 2009, 8:13 pm
  40. *sigh*

    QN’s website has once again turned into the home of exiles from Syria Comment. It’s like Paris in the 70’s. Stick around and you just might meet an ayatollah or two.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 26, 2009, 10:17 pm
  41. QN,
    That explains me, but what is Alex doing here?

    Posted by AIG | June 26, 2009, 11:47 pm
  42. QN,

    cannot wait for your calculations. Maths has never been my strong point and from the data I got was left scratching my head, especially when comparing to what others were saying. So I am putting my neck firmly in my shell….

    Posted by deensharp | June 27, 2009, 7:17 am
  43. … part of his duties of disrupting intelligent Arab blogs.

    Alex,

    “Disrupting”? How so? Can’t you handle different points-of-view? This blog isn’t run by the Iranian and/or Syrian government you know.

    You forgot to add as part of my “duties”: “and countering pro-Palestinian, Israeli Leftist and Arab propaganda”

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 27, 2009, 10:22 am

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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