Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: WORLD POLITICS — Rick Moran @ 7:09 am

The final round of parliamentary voting is over and the ghost of Rafik Hariri is smiling. Hariri’s son Saad and his anti-Syrian coalition captured nearly 75% of the remaining seats that were up for grabs in the North of Lebanon, giving them an outright majority in parliament:

Lebanon’s anti-Syrian opposition looked set to win outright control of Parliament last night in the decisive final round of the country’s first elections free of Syrian control in almost 30 years. Early indications from North Lebanon showed the united list of Saad Hariri, the son of murdered former Premier Rafik Hariri, had won enough seats to secure a majority in Parliament for his united opposition grouping.

Leading opposition politician Boutros Harb said: “According to incomplete results, we are heading for a total victory.”

The anti-Syrian opposition needed to secure at least 21 of the 28 seats up for grabs in yesterday’s poll to have a parliamentary majority. But it remains unclear whether the opposition will have the two-thirds majority required to end to the term of Lebanon’s pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, who still has a further two years in office after a controversial Damascus-inspired extension last September which was the catalyst for the uniting the country’s opposition groupings.

Hariri’s candidate lists went head to head with Free Patriotic Movement’s charismatic leader Michel Aoun who’s success during last week’s voting in the south almost upset the opposition’s applecart. Hariri was able to garner support that crossed sectarian and even clan lines by appealing to widespread anti-Syrian sentiment in the small towns and villages that dot the countryside. In addition, Hariri cannily aligned himself with popular opposition politicians like Strida Tawk Geagea, wife of imprisoned Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea as well as Sunni religious leaders such as Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Qabbani. The resulting coalition overwhelmed Aoun’s candidate lists which brought out some bitterness in the former Prime Minister:

Aoun accused Hariri of buying votes and playing on sectarian differences to secure victory in northern Lebanon, ruling out any chance of teaming up with him in parliament.

“We will be in the opposition. We can’t be with a majority that reached (parliament) through corruption,” he said.

As for vote buying, this from a European politician:

European legislator Jose Ignacio Salafranca said he took note of allegations of vote buying. He added: “Competition is high, which is a healthy sign.”

Reminds me of some places in rural America - especially in the South - where vote buying is still a grand old tradition. It usually takes the form of a a five or ten dollar bill pressed into the hands of voters on their way to the polls and many voters simply will not vote without the token bribe.

Aoun’s opposition was to be expected as he’s trying to carve out an independent niche for himself - something he couldn’t have done if he had joined the anti-Syrian opposition. By aligning himself during the elections with mainly pro-Syrian candidates, this anti-Syrian icon proved himself to be something of an opportunist, although Aoun apologists point to his strong anti-corruption stand as the reason for his alliance of convenience.

In addition to Aoun’s 23 seats, the Hezbullah-Amal alliance and their 35 seats will also be in opposition. And that grouping could prove much more problematic as the opposition seeks to form a government. No doubt the pro-Syrian militias will want some kind of internal security positions in the new government. If Aoun joins them, they could prove to be a powerful opposition voice.

Not to mention that theirs are the only militias that are armed.

Passions ran high during this round. But the people seem hopeful:

“I have never seen such participation at elections before,” said Anwar Chidiac, a 56 year-old Qobeiyat resident. “It’s such a phenomenon.” The North Lebanon polls, in which over 100 candidates fought for the remaining 28 parliamentary seats, was definitely the most heavily attended and competitive of all four voting districts, with sectarian tensions running high.

“I think that such a large number of voters is a healthy sign,” said 50-year-old Hakim Bakhos. “It really demonstrates how the current elections are taking place in a totally democratic atmosphere with no foreign interference, whatsoever.”

Described by many North residents as “emotional,” Sunday’s battle was extremely heated, as villagers left their homes to reach the stations - some heading there on donkeys. This round determines whether or not the 128-seat assembly would have an anti-Syrian majority for the first time since the 1975-90 Civil War.

The Captain sums it up nicely:

The course of the next four years appears to be set, as the Hariri-led government will pursue policies which pull away from Syrian influence — and Lebanon has its own elected government for the first time in decades. It’s an amazing and dramatic result for a country who appeared to be prostrate under the Syrian thumb until the US/UK-led Coalition “destabilized” the Middle East and parked itself on Syria’s eastern border. May this lead to even more “destabilization” and the furtherance of the wave of democratization to a region parched of freedom.

Can a multi-sectarian, anti-Syrian coalition government emerge when the politicians sit down and try and form a stable government? The people seem hopeful and the politicians themselves appear ready to do the heavy lifting necessary to make the people’s hope a reality.

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