Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Presidential Elections and On-Going Deadlock

The deadlock between the Opposition and the Government remained present between both parties. The first “round” of the Presidential elections was postponed, and so far Lebanon’s MPs didn’t meet yet officially for the year 2007, due to the chaotic status Lebanon has evolved into.

Ever since the Opposition launched their open demonstration and announced their boycott to the Parliament, nothing legislative has occurred. The two camps remained charging their followers, and indirectly bringing the neutral supporters to both sides of the camp. In such a situation, these supporters are recruited to one camp or another under the logo: “the lesser of the two evil”.

The Government has been exhausting its arguments that they seek reconciliation with any one who wants to, and insist to shove a March 14th candidate to the Presidential chair. In fact, at first they nominated every Maronite figure they had with them in the hope that the other camp will find fit to be voted for, but so far no minimum agreement occurred. They argued that the Presidential chair should be decided by the Christians, and then switched logos when the Archbishop Nasrallah Sfair agreed to the three quarters quorum for elections at the MPs. When the first round of Parliamentary session failed to meet (due to the majority of the Opposition refuting to enter), the Government threatened that the next round meeting, they will follow the 50% plus one quorum to vote. Despite the political assassinations, they hold the majority in the Parliament. As of yesterday, March 14th officially withdrew its candidates except two agreed on, and afterwards will push further as who has the better chance to win: Nassib Lahoud and Boutros Harb.

Nassib Lahoud and Boutros Harb had almost decade of challenging the Syrian Hegemony inside the Parliamentary Meetings. While the likes of Walid Junblatt and the late Rafiq Harriri disregarded the Syrian factor in Lebanon, these two had the guts to attack the rest of the members of Parliament for not tackling the Syrian corruption over Lebanon. Moreover, unlike the Free Patriotic Movement (Prior to Aoun’s return) and Lebanese Forces, they were never racist towards the Syrian people during the days of opposition. I remember one of Michel el Murr's hooligans opened fire on Nassib Lahoud's car.

The Opposition has Aoun as the most powerful candidate to represent the Opposition. So far, Hezbollah’s general secretary didn’t say it bluntly: “Aoun is my candidate”. Aoun’s sole purpose of entering the blunt alliance with the Opposition is due to the fact he is willing to ally with the devil to secure his presidential chair. Some people wonder if March 14th promise him the Chair, he will directly switch sides. While Aoun’s coalition “Reform and Change” did gather 72% of Christian chairs in 2005, Aoun’s popularity shrank in size after two years later after the Matn Elections of 2007 (to replace the assassinated minister Pierre Gemayel). His entire hopes currently are on the Opposition to get him to the Presidential chair. While almost five years ago he called Hezbollah terrorists because they carried arms outside the Lebanese Army / Internal Security Forces institutions, Aoun called them Official Resistance forged from Lebanese suffering, and excluded the Iranian factor. Aoun’s bargaining power with the opposition springs from the fact that he is self-promoted most powerful Christian figure. That may have been true in 2005, but now things changed for him. If things remain at a deadlock, the Opposition will stick to Aoun in order to penetrate Parliamentary chairs at Christian locations. The 2009 elections should be interesting to see who dominates the Christian street.

It is interesting that Aoun, relying on his allies for victory demanded that it is the people who should vote for the President in a mass referendum. I have no problem with that as long as it is permanent rather a solo occasion. Yet, this brought him in clashes with the Christian leaders of the government and Archbishop Nasrallah. Aoun’s situation got worsened. The Nahr el Bared battle between the terrorist group Fatah Islam and the Lebanese Army back-fired on his relations with his allies. Hassan Nasrallah clearly said that the Nahr el Bared Camp is a red zone to be entered by the Lebanese Army, Aoun encouraged the Lebanese Army to enter. Luckily for Aoun , the mediations so far failed and remained the primary candidate. Yet, Hezbollah’s MP Hussein Hajj Hassan was clear, Aoun is a powerful candidate, but there are others as well if they have a better chance, which pushed Aoun to say on TV that his hands are open to anyone for negotiations. Like all initiations, this one seemed to do nothing. Both camps are competing for that purpose.

So what kept the Opposition alive in its demands? They already boycotted the Parliament and Government, but they didn’t get any satisfactory results (National Unity Government or Bring Down the Seniora Government). They entered an open demonstration, now their camps are almost empty down there in Centreville, and I may add that almost 80% of Down Town stores have permanently closed because the government failed to protect them from the recession in Down Town due to the Open Demonstration. They tried an open civil disobedience action, the government masses retaliated with fist to fist in the face of them, proving to the opposition they are not the only ones with hooligans who know how to be aggressive. Last but not least, they are isolated internationally. The key to the Opposition’s face save would be definitely Speaker of Parliament and Leader of the Shiite Party: Nabih Berri. He is the one who has been blocking the Parliament from meeting. In my opinion, if the Opposition didn’t have the Speaker of Parliament position, business would have been as usual for 14th of March. Hence, some speculate that he will not call the Parliament to meet (in case no reconciliation occurs) till the 2009 elections (if that can last that long).

In any case, things are getting worse. The government at least had the guts to say officially what everyone else knows: a lot of pro-government and pro-opposition party members are rearming. The Junblatt’s PSP revealed they had arms during the Civil Disobedience of the opposition, so did Amal. Everyone knows Hezbollah have arms, and the Lebanese Forces probably have arms hidden since the civil war. AMAL thugs more than once entered a street to street fight with Sunni fundamentalist groups (in the past) using arms. The SSNP remained carrying out military training for their members at certain focal points, and the acquisition of detonations and arms (some dating post-war era) were confiscated by the Lebanese Army. Even Future Movement are rumored to carry arms as well (accusation of Manar TV to Future during the confrontations at the Arab University). The funniest event would be We’am Wahhab threatening the government to trash down the government if they proceed with the 50% plus one protocol to elect a President (some still wonder why Junblatt didn’t obliterate him from existence yet and his tiny masses in Durzistan).

All eyes are going to Bkerki (Maronite location) regarding Archbishop Sfair’s initiative to at least get the Christians on both sides to reconcile. On LBC, a lot of the high ranked Maronite bishops appear on TV with political statements. The Sunni side already are clear on their demands: Mufti Qabani has over-preached religiously his support to Saad el Harriri and the government. When Archbishop Sfair was asked about the last updates on his initiative to reconcile the two camps, he simply said: “We need to pray to heaven and get our prayers answered.” Only dark days are coming to this forsaken nation when the presidential elections arrive, unless we have a strange “divine” miracle to get both camps reconcile for the future of the people who will suffer from another potential civil war.



LaLebanessa said...

Excellent review MFL, the situation can give anyone a big fat headache don't you think?

Even though I am usually opposed to any religous interference in politics (a "ha ha" point of view when concerning lebanon)I really do hope these meetings at Bkirki get something achieved. If the Christian congtingent of both sides agrees on a candidate then I think everybody else should just accept the candidate so we can move on. Zhikna baka, and the eternal worry about another looming civil war is wearing our fingernails down.

My vote would be for Nassib Lahoud. He seems well balanced and intellegent.

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