Friday, August 31, 2007

Several issues...

It seems that I have several issues to talk about. First there is an article by Michael Young (the Opinion editor of the Daily Star -a Lebanese English newspaper- and who usually write poignant article that leans towards March 14th position) that speaks about the lack of serious and on the ground efforts of Saad Hariri and the Future Movement towards their popular base and how he must come back to Lebanon to spear head the 14 of March movement in these critical months. A very interesting and honest article, in my opinion.

Next there is the whole mess with the Human Rigth Watch organization and their report on Hezbollah's violations and war crimes in July 2006 fighting with Israel. The HRW planned to published the report during a press conference, Hezbollah objected and threatened that they will hold demonstrations in front of the hotel, where the press conference would take place. HRW backed down and launched the report on its website without a press conference. A terrible shame if you ask me.

Here is the link to the report, and the page of the Israeli-Lebanese conflict (if you wanna judge the fairness of the organization) I recommend everyone to read it (at least the summary) and I will post a full analysis of the report soon.

Finally, I still to write my comments on the Annahar study of Lebanon’s population that I talked about in my previous post.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Annahar study of Lebanon's population!

Annahar -one of Lebanon's most trustworthy and unbiased newspapers- published a very interesting study on the sectarian breakdown of Lebanon's population, and the future change it may witness.

The study is in Arabic and Annahr articles are only free for one day, so if you wanna have a look you need to hurry. However i will try to post a summary of the major findings tomorrow.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Sofres Poll on Aoun popularity

While browsing the latest Lebanese news site, called NowLebanon, i found out this opinion poll made in early august (before the by-election) I found it interesting so here is the link and the most important results:

According to a recent Sofres poll, Lebanese Christians have become steadily more critical of opposition leader Michel Aoun since the escalation of Lebanon’s political crisis in January. Nevertheless, Aoun remains the most popular choice for president. Explaining this situation goes a long way to revealing Aoun’s political strengths and weaknesses.

According to the poll’s findings, the ongoing political deadlock has caused Aoun’s reputation to erode significantly among Christians. In a January Sofres poll, 50% of Christians stated that they had a favorable impression of Aoun, while 40% had a negative impression. By May, only 41% of Christians answered that they had a favorable opinion, and 52% had a negative opinion.

In contrast, March 14 leader Samir Geagea saw his favorability rating improve from 43% positive and 45% negative in January, to 54% positive and 40% negative in May.

The decline in Aoun’s reputation has been mirrored by a Christian shift toward March 14 in general. Christian support for March 14 grew from 35% in January to 42% in May, while support for March 8 shrunk slightly during the same time period, from 34% to 31%. 27% of Christians, however, still respond that they support neither March 8 nor March 14, a figure that has been relatively stable throughout the duration of the conflict.

The engine for this growing discontent seems to be Aoun’s alliance with Hezbollah. Many Christians are, and always have been, wary of the armed Shia group. When asked which party represented the greatest threat to them, 25% of Christians, a plurality, named Hezbollah. 55% of Christians favored the unconditional disarmament of Hezbollah in May – an increase from 47% two months prior. Disapproval of Aoun’s Memorandum of Understanding with Hezbollah has also increased recently, from 41% in March to 52% in May.

Aoun’s advisors should be telling him that his presidential chances remain good – but that his alliance with Hezbollah is causing him to slowly bleed Christian support. He is currently benefiting from divided Christian strength among the March 14 forces and the strong support base he built up before 2005. However, these are two rapidly-dissolving advantages: the March 14 coalition will likely soon unite around a presidential candidate, and the longer Aoun remains tied to groups like Hezbollah, the faster many Christians are going to forget about his past accomplishments.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Al Manar’s hypocrisy!

The son of President Lahoud just got married, and the father threw his son an extravagant dinner and ceremony in the presidential palace. The story ends here and frankly I don’t care about Lahoud or his son’s marriage. But what is interesting is how Al Manar (Hezbollah’s TV) dealt with that piece of news. They totally ignored!

Now fast rewind to a couple of months ago, similar event, Prime Minster Siniora held a sumptuous marriage celebration for his son in the Saray (the Prime Minster’s Palace) For several days however AL Manar top news was a detailed coverage of the celebration, that dwelled on the kind of food that was served, the invited personalities and even the color of the napkins…

Al Manar ridiculed PM Siniora, asking how he dared use the Saray for personal use, even though PM Siniora hardly ever goes out of the compound for security reasons. The campaign went for days and days, frankly it was nauseating.

This time around not a word not even an insinuation was uttered on the President and his son’s marriage. That’s my friends is called pure hypocrisy…

Monday, August 20, 2007

A presidential bid and a big surprise

Last week two main events in Lebanon feverish political scene were a General Suleiman (the head of the Lebanese army) almost official candidacy for the most coveted of all political posts: the Presidency!

The General first went a held a long meeting with the Maronite patriarch, to get his blessing, especially that the General’s appointment will require a constitutional amendment.

And then the General went on a media rampage selling his candidacy. And in a typical Lebanese fashion he flip flopped between different positions in order to please all influential factions that governs the outcome of the Presidential election (the US, France, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and their respective Lebanese representatives)

So the General declared that neither the Lebanese Government nor the Syrian intelligence provided any help or support to Fateh Al ISalm, the terrorist group, fought by the army in the north. Additionally, he furiously vented for the lack of support and help to the Lebanese army, then two days later thanked the United States for the substantial and important help it is providing to the army…

Personally I am against his candidacy. I think one general every decade is more than enough! And after our experience with General Lahoud I will need at least two or three decades before I could even consider a former general as the president of Lebanon.

Finally, in another media stunt that could lead to a war, Mr. Nassrallah claimed that in the event Israel attacked Lebanon he has a “big surprise that could change the war and the fate of the whole regional” what Nassrallah is hinting to is open to many speculations, and one of them is that Hezbollah has weapons of mass destruction in its possession.

But one thing is for sure in International Relations you NEVER EVER threaten or claim to have a weapon of mass destruction. This would immediately provide the international community and Israel with a legitimate and concrete argument to attack Hezbollah. And if Nassrallah’s statement was not intended to give that message, well he should clarify it and fast…

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Aoun popularity suffers a 31% drop in the last election!!!!

According to the final detailed results, and my calculation Aoun popularity fell by more than 24.2% in the Metn. And when I say Aoun I mean his own party’s popularity without his allies (Murr, Armenians and the SSNP/Baath…)

I reached this number by taking the final vote tally for Aoun’s candidate 39534 and then I subtracted the Armenian vote 7300 and Murr’s bloc 10400, various Muslims votes (around 1500) and the SSNP (which most analyst place around 2000)

In between I calculated Murr’s bloc to be around 10400 because in 2005 most analyst placed it around 13000 or 14000 and if one looks at the numbers in Murr strongholds (Imart shelhoub, Btegrine and Biskenta) he lost around 15% to 20% of his popularity, so I went with 20%.

The number we get is 18334=39534-(7300+10400+1500+2000) and that is how many voters owe their allegiance to Aoun.

If we apply the same process to the 2005 election this is what we get: Aoun candidate on his list get an average of 53000 votes, out of this 13000 were for Murr, 7500 for the Armenians, 1500 various Muslims and 2500 SSNP. So Aoun voters amount to 28500.

So 28500-18334= 10166 which translates into a whooping 35.6% drop!!! Of course we need to substrate the 4.2% drop in participation (51.2% in 2005 and 47% in 2007) so this lead us to a final number of 31.4%

Finally, I will add that the Tachnak Armenian party said that it participated by around 8400 (ie 1000 vote more than I calculated) unfortunately I cannot verify this number because there is some mixed voting district where Armenians and other sects voters cast their ballot, so it is impossible to calculate exactly their numbers. (in Lebanon most voting centers are divided on sectarian basis) But in any case if that was true than Aoun popularity dropped by an even larger percentage!

Additionally, Aoun apologist blamed this drop on several factors, such as compassion for the assassinated MP Pierre Gemayel whose seat was in play. Abdo Saad, the pro Aounist electoral analyst, in his article said that this factor place a role as 51.7% of Women voted for Amine Gemayel while 51.9 voted for Aoun candidate. Well if that is true than this factor had a minimal affect that does not amount to more than a 3.6% change (if we considered that both sex should have voted the same) so the drop in Aoun popularity is still 27.8, in short no matter the excuse one can find Aoun popularity dropped at least, and I stress at least by 25%, regardless of all the factor Aoun supports blame…

One last point, the whole issue with the Armenians and blaming them for the defeat of the 14 March candidate, was a sorry thing. It should have never happened, even if there was widespread election manipulation or rigging. This is Lebanon and these ways have always happened one cannot blame a whole sect because some Tachnak party official wanted to squeeze a few more votes out of his consistency to better his options. And as I said before, all in all it was a free and relatively transparent election, so congratulation to the winner and long live democracy.

Source: Al-Akhbar and Annahar (unfortunately Annahar archive is paid so it is no longer accessible if you want to check the article it was published on August 9th 2007, page 13)

Monday, August 06, 2007

Final Results…

Aoun candidate won by 418 votes! He got 39534 votes while Amine Gemayel got 39116. The Aounist candidate won by 0.5%, compared to 2005 when Aoun top candidate got 68% and an average of 63% for all his list, this is a big surprise!!

First of all it is a victory for democracy and for the government of Lebanon, which proved to be fair, democratic and totally unbiased. The government proved it legitimacy and its neutrality in the election.

As the full detailed results have not been announced yet, i will limit myself to a few remarks: My earlier predications was slightly off (as I awarded Aoun with more votes) but all in all what I predicted “a close battle with a slight advantage to Aoun” materialized!

Additionally, it seems that Aoun lost much more than the 15% I forecasted. The moment I get the detailed results I will make the full calculations. But it seems that Aoun got less 45% of the Maronite votes and his support dropped by at least 20%.

And for all FPM supporters who downplayed the importance of the SSNP and Baath in this election, I can only say that Aoun candidate only won because of the SSNP and Baath parties votes (remember the difference of 418 votes between the two candidates!!!)

In the end, no blood was spilled and that was a miracle, Aoun nearly caused a major riot by asking his supporters to descend to the central counting building, but the quick Army reaction saved us form the worse.

There was no big winners and no big loser. A usless battle that would not solve anything, on the contrary it strengthened the division between the two main Christians parties and thrust the Armenians in the middle of a battle they should have avoided at all cost!

At least we can still claim to be the only country in the arab world that has free elections...

So congratulation to the winner and long live democracy!!!!

Sunday, August 05, 2007


In order to better follow the results of the election in the Metn either try 14 March site (Lebanese Forces) or the Aounist one.

20.52: Till now they are both listing Gemayel as a winner.

21.11: Aoun announced his victory and called for his supporters to head to the central district where all the votes are being counted. HOWEVER both websites are indicating that Amine Gemayel won (with 2/3 of the votes counted thus far)

21.35: Gemayel's announced his victory! So both candidates have won!!!! Typical Lebanese elections. Additionally, have stooped publishing results...

23.25: no official results yet, but it seems Aoun won by a very slim margin. A few minutes ago announced that Aoun candidate won by 4000 and received a phone call by the Minster of Interior who announced this victory. Yet they just removed this info... Aoun denied it and he just announced that his candidate won but the difference was small...

In conclusion:

It seems that Aoun won, no official words yet but all indication shows that he won, by a several hundred votes.

Mid day briefing

The good news: no major scuffles on the streets, just the usual tensions and provocations.

Meanwhile, participation seems a bit less than 2005, but this drop would not translate into any gain for either candidate, as it will be all over the board.

Therefore, I will stick with my previous predictions: a very close battle with a slight advantage to Aoun.

Above all else let it be peacfull!!!

In less than eight hours the voting will start. In Beirut, it is only a matter of participation; the higher it is the better it will be for Future Movement and its level of support, their candidate victory is almost certain. The battle lies to the east of Beirut, in Mount Lebanon, In Metn.

In the Metn Amine Gemayel, representing March 14 is fighting a titanic battle against Aoun, who is currently supported and aided by Syria’s allies in Lebanon, like Hezbollah, SSNP and the Baath Party…

In 2005 Aoun won with more than 20000 voice s of difference. This time the battle is much, much closer. Who will win? Is a question that can only be answered tomorrow by this time. Nevertheless, there are two certainties that can be reached tonight.

The first is that the difference between the two candidates will be less than 5% of the votes. The second is the level of tension, polarization and HATE have reached such a level that clashes are a most probable. And if events get out of control, with the army spread thin all over Lebanon, and blood drench the streets the repercussions will be catastrophic…

So in the end, good luck to all candidates, may the best man win and above all else let the election be peaceful…

Friday, August 03, 2007

Electoral Analysis Part III

As the fateful day draw near more and more indications about the results are emerging.

Gebran Bassil, Aoun's son in law and one of the top FPM leaders said yesterday on LBC TV station, in a talk show (Kalam el Nas) that in fact the FPM did win 70% of the votes in 2005 (like they have been claiming for the past 2 years) they only won 63%, and a couple percentage drop would not diminish their victory. And one of the topics on the FPM bulletin board argues that even a 50%+1 results is a victory.

This indicates that the FPM is no longer expecting a big difference between the two candidates. So it seems that my analysis was in the right direction. The difference will be around 5% at most, either ways. And a recent survey by The International Information Institute published in Assafir and in Annahar point for a similar conclusion.

This survey also state that there is a 10% of undecided, and reported that by studying the breakdown of voting intentions by sect points out to 17.7% drop in Aoun popularity.

Additionaly, Al-Akhbare ( a newspaper very close to the opposition and to the FPM) stated that 7000 voters out of Michel Murr's bloc will vote for Amine Gemayel. If i compute this number in my previous analysis the result would become as follow:

So the final numbers become like this:

35650 + 7000 (from Murr up from 2800) for the Kateb and allies

25500 for Aoun and his allies

7000 Tachnak

7000 for Murr (down form 11200, based on the new numbers)

Total for Amin Gemayel: 42600

Total for Aoun: 39500

And this shows that a 4000 difference in vote can change the whole result.

So once more, Sunday's election will be incredibly close, the two candidates are neck to neck with a slight advantage to Aoun...

Thursday, August 02, 2007

A very intresting article!!!

A very interesting article by Michael Young that analysis the current electoral battle in the Metn from a different and stricking perspective:

Is Michel Aoun walking into a trap?

By Michael Young

All the signs are that the voting will go ahead in the Metn by-election this coming Sunday. However, partisans of both Michel Aoun and Amin Gemayel should be very careful. An Aoun victory would indeed be a setback for those who oppose Syrian efforts to return to Lebanon; but the election could potentially be a trap for Aoun, its practical outcome the general's political ruin and the destruction of Christian unity.

Whatever one thinks of Aoun, he has been a victim of two cutting blows coming from Damascus, and there is some question as to how we should read them. The first was the publication on a Syrian regime Web site, Champress, of alleged statements Aoun made in Berlin in which the general expressed sympathy for Syria. It turned out that Aoun did not utter the words in question, even if a compilation of his past remarks would show that he has said things not so very different.

The second blow was the announcement on Sunday by Ali Qanso, the head of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, that the party would back Aoun in the election. For anyone who knows the mood in the Metn and the antipathy felt for Syria and its utensils, Qanso's expression of comradeship could only harm Aoun in the eyes of many voters.

What's going on here? One interpretation could be that Syria is trying so maladroitly to appear like it is sinking Aoun, that the general will actually benefit from a contrary reaction of public compassion. That's possible. But another theory seems more credible, namely that Syria is looking to weaken Aoun, just as its main intention is to push the Christians into a destructive internecine crisis. Why? Perhaps to advance an alternative presidential contender at the right time, and to ensure that the Christians are so divided after the Metn election that they will be unable to agree on a different consensus candidate for the presidency.

An obvious question poses itself. If you are Michel Murr and the Tashnaq Party, doesn't recent Syrian behavior send a message that neither bloc will be penalized much for failing to fully support Aoun on Sunday? If Aoun is being set up for a fall, then Murr and the Armenians, by giving the general some votes, but not enough to win, may be there to implement that fall, even as they preserve their own interests. Murr will have saved his good ties with the Gemayels; the Armenians will have avoided a confrontation with March 14 and Saad Hariri, perhaps allowing them to negotiate a return of their candidates in Beirut in the next election; and both will have given Aoun enough votes so that he cannot blame them for his defeat.

Make sense? Let's take the speculation a bit further. If Aoun is to be eliminated, who do the Syrians really have in mind for the presidency? It's difficult to say, but if we go back to 1998, we might recall that Damascus, in turning Emile Lahoud into a president, was also advancing a broader political program: the militarization of the Lebanese regime. Part of the logic was that only the army and the security forces could contain the traditional political class - people like Rafik Hariri, Walid Jumblatt, and others. It's difficult to imagine that the Syrians have given up on that reasoning.

Let's also recall that recently Michel Murr floated the idea of bringing the army commander Michel Suleiman in as interim president for two years. Why would Murr do that, given that he is purportedly an ally of Michel Aoun, who sees Suleiman as a mortal rival? Could it be that Murr sensed something and that Syria's emerging candidate for the presidency is the army commander, now regarded by many Lebanese as something of a national champion? That doesn't mean that Suleiman is Syria's man - he has lost far too many soldiers fighting a Syrian-inspired project in Nahr al-Bared. However, it is defensible to have presidential ambitions, and none of the presidential candidates today, even those of March 14, would seriously contemplate being elected against Syria. The army commander's recent threat to resign if a second government were formed by the opposition suggested he was placing himself above the fray. As for his statement to the troops on Tuesday in Nahr al-Bared that the "salvation of the country will come from you," few things could have been clearer.

So as the Christians fight it out, Syria is figuratively taking us back to 1988, when Amin Gemayel left office. They start out with an unworkable demand - at the time the election of Suleiman Franjieh as president, today Aoun's candidacy. When unhappy Christians rally to block the option, the Syrians offer two other choices just as advantageous to them: Mikhail al-Daher or chaos, to paraphrase what the American envoy Richard Murphy supposedly told the Lebanese in encouraging Daher's election. Very soon, Suleiman will look like a superlative choice amid the ambient discord - both to the Lebanese and to an international community anxious about a vacuum at the top of the state. And if the Christians hinder that project, then what will follow is chaos.

The Metn by-election has already confirmed that Christians are more divided than ever before. In that sense, Aoun made a big mistake by pushing Camille Khoury into the ring in the first place. After all, what advantage was it for the general to highlight Christian differences when he could have affirmed that most Christians supported him on the basis of the 2005 elections? Whether Aoun and Gemayel compromise at the last moment is almost irrelevant at this stage. Avoiding a battle will lessen the damage, but already the Christians are at each other's throats, and the Syrians can only welcome this with their usual sense of humor.