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Saturday, June 25, 2005 

Lebanese election roundup

The US has criticised the fairness of Lebanon's election, because a handful of the new MPs are pro-Syria. Meanwhile, European and UN monitors praised the election as being free, fair and peaceful, although they said that the constituency sizes need to be reviewed.

Saad Al-Hariri's Future coalition won 72 out of 128 seats, making it the largest group. It is unclear whether he'll run for Prime Minister, given his lack of political experience. If he chooses not to, his group will be able to select the PM (Parliament votes for the new PM).

Here's how the election went:

Saad Al-Hariri won all 19 seats after most rivals dropped out. Many voters boycotted the election at the lack of choice - including the city's large Armenian population. Turnout was pathetic at just 30% - far less than under Syrian influence.

Hezbollah and its ally Amal won all 23 seats, making this election one of the most predicatable since the end of the war. Hezbollah called for a high turnout, to reinforce the party's legitimacy in international eyes (the party is widely respected inside Lebanon, even among rivals, for its role in ending the Israeli occupation of the South, and for the services it provides). And it got the turnout it wanted - 45%, a big increase on Beirut, and previous years.

There was a similar controversy here, as there was in Beirut, where rivals dropped out in the face of a clear Hezbollah/Amal victory.

In a candidate swap, Saad Al-Hariri's mother stood under the Hezbollah umbrella, while a Hezbollah candidate stood in Beirut.

According to Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a professor at the Lebanese American University:
"This is the first time that [Hezbollah leader] Nasrallah played the role of statesman; we have never seen him as a Lebanese leader".

The biggest shock of the election came here. Newly returned warlord Michel Aoun stole 21 out of 58 seats here from Saad Al-Hariri. He wanted to join the Future coalition, but his mix of war-like speak, and the antagonism he provokes scared Hariri - he's still considered a maverick. Instead Aoun picked allies which included pro-Syrian politicians (Aoun fled the country after a failed battle with the Syrian army 15 years ago, who were trying to end the war).

Aoun won 15 out of 16 seats in the Christian heartland north-east of Beirut.

In an interview with Reuters, Aoun said that he would now seek the Presidency.

One of the most pro-Syrian areas of Lebanon (expect for the South), this is the region of former PM and Syrian puppet Omar Karami. He decided not to stand, but pro-Syrian former minister Suleiman Franjieh - who stood under Aoun's coalition- lost his seat. Saad Al-Hariri took every seat in this region.

SO THREE OF THE REGIONS produced unanimous results. But last time it was very different. Rafiq Al-Hariri won 43 MPs, Walid Jumblatt won 14 (he's now in the Saad coalition), with 71 going to pro-Syrian politicians.

Why, after Syria has departed, is everything still labelled in pro and anti Syrian terms ?

Lebanon is alone now and Syria is gone.

Very good question.

It seems like the 'opposition' is fracturing along a number of different lines - and it is very simplistic to label Walid Jumblatt as anti-Syrian. On the other hand, is Aoun now pro-Syrian?!

George Hawi was labelled 'anti-Syrian' even though he was as anti-Israeli as he was anti-Syrian. Members of the Communist Party which he used to lead lashed out at accusations that Syria was responsible for his death. They blamed the hand of Israel in Lebanon.

Syria is accused of having a hit list and Israel brazenly claims it has one, in all impunity.

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  • From Damascus to London via Beirut. Based in and out of the central Damascene hamlet of Saroujah. News and feelings from the streets every day. I'm talking rubbish? Leave a comment. Welcome to the information democracy. See below for info about this site.
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