Monday, June 13, 2005

Here comes "Le General"

General Aoun has just accomplished a very rare feat in Lebanon's political life. He peacefully turned the tables on the power that is – the Joumblatt Hariri and Kornet Sehwan coalition.

Aoun swept all the seats in the first two constituencies of Mount Lebanon, toppling most of the other Christian figures. And he almost won an impossible victory in Baabda-alley, the third constituency, which is considered one of Walid Joumblatt private fiefdoms.

General Aoun has just entered the very exclusive club of Lebanese factions that control the Parliament (in addition to the Hariri, Jumblatt, Hizbullah and Nabih Berry’s bloc) and completely changed the Lebanese political arena.

One of the most striking changes due to Aoun's victory, is that no one will be able to outset Emile Lahoud, the current pro-Syrian President, from office after the election. Not even the once mighty Hariri-Joumblatt alliance.

For General Aoun has repeatedly declared that he will not accept the removal of the Maronite President. And now, after his victory, Aoun and his parliamentary bloc have the means to obstruct any parliamentary motion to remove the president from his office.

Another consequence is the sounding political defeat befallen Jumblatt and his ally Saad Hariri. The great majority they thought they will get (more than 80 MP) has evaporated. And their Christian allied faction (Kornet Shehwan) is now officially dead. They are now left with only with Nabih Berry and Hizbullah. And their prospects for a clear victory in the north are diminishing by the hour, especially after the reconciliation of Sleiman Frangieh and Omar Karame and their alliance with General Aoun.

General Aoun has accomplished in these elections what Bashir Gemayel did with political assassination. He has become the uncontested Christian political leader, with influence that transcends the many confessional barriers.

The General will lead a parliamentary bloc of around 20 to 25 deputies (depending on the last round of election). Most of them are young, university graduates and moderate Lebanese who did not participate in the civil war.

These new arrivals will hopefully introduce some greatly needed fresh blood in the Parliament, which could help with Lebanon's economic and political problems. Moreover General Aoun’s free patriotic movement is the only group of the four others that have a clear set and defined electoral program.

However, General Aoun’s victory allowed some of Syria’s staunchest allies to return to the Parliament. Like MPs Michel Murr and Sleiman Frangieh. A fact that might alienate many Lebanese, who consider Syria and its cronies as the source of most of their country’s problems.

Finally, General Aoun victory will profoundly change the political life in Lebanon. Although, some of these changes look very promising, the rest further assert the need for a radical overhaul of the Lebanese political elite and institutions.

In the end, the real consequences of this victory depend on Aoun’s future actions. If he sticks to his announced reform program and secular principles, then maybe his stormy entrance to the Parliament will herald the first steps of Lebanon's on the one thousand miles road towards democracy and prosperity. If not, then he will become just another corrupt politician in an ever-growing repertoire.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

You call this an election?

With the unfolding of events, and the advent of the electoral law and alliances, I became very demoralized, which might explain the delays between my posts.

What made matter worse, was the assassination of the brilliant intellectual and the staunch Anti-Syrian journalist Samir Qassir. For, after the big protests of 14 March, I, and many others thought that our political situation will undergo a major overhaul, and Lebanon will start its long climb towards democracy. I was wrong.

Because, our “esteemed” politicians – and here I stress ALL, politicians – had others plans in mind. They decided to sell us short, for a few seats in the parliament.

The 2000 electoral law was used again. A law made and forced in by the Ghazi Kanan the former head of Syrian military intelligence – the "current" one, Rustem Ghazali, was booted out of Lebanon a few weeks ago- a gerrymandering law that makes sure that in each region a single faction will be able to controll all the seats.

And it came to be that the same four parliamentary blocs that controlled the parliament from 2000 to 2005, shall dominate the new one, with slightly changed proportions.

The four parliamentary blocs are: Nabih Berri's( a Shiite warlord, best know for his corruption), Hezbollah's, Walide Joumblatt's (a Druze warlord), and Hariri’s ( now headed by Saad Hariri, the son of the assassinated Prime Minister Rafic Hariri) see previous posts for more information about the assassination

Of course other groups and factions will be represented in the new parliament but their numbers will pale in comparison to the four big ones.

After all what happened from the death of Hariri to the great uprising of March the 14th, it seems that we are back to square two! Two not one! Because, we are no longer under the Syrian yoke, and that is quite an achievement, but we still have much more to do.

To be continued, with more on the electoral alliances and the composition of the new parliament…