Saturday, February 28, 2009

Election Anxiety - Part II

Perceiving Defeat

The perception (reality?) of an impending defeat for those Christian allies of Hizballah and the Syrians hasn't been hard to miss. Hizballah's August 2008 downing of a Lebanese Army helicopter and the [allegedly] cold-blooded murder of its pilot, Lt. Samer Hanna, by gunmen belonging to the militant group - followed by the unapologetic stance taken by the group's Christian frontman, Michel Aoun - grated on nerves already frayed by the group's violent invasion and occupation of Beirut, as well as its assault on the Mountain.

Meanwhile, Aoun's incessant broadsides against the Maronite Patriarch (recently evoking a threat of excommunication!) and the country's top Christian statesman, the President, are proving to be a relentless drag on his approval ratings within Christian circles.

Such categorical strategic mistakes are the stuff with which the General has built a reputation for shooting himself [and everyone around him] in the foot. Witness his recent break with the Metn electoral powerhouse of Michel el Murr - as predicted in our July 2008 composite post.

Perceptions aside, however, the electoral battle is far far from over.

The real accomplishment for Hizballah in the Doha Accords was not the accordance of Cabinet-level veto power (by May 2008, the International Tribunal was unstoppable - although the group may now be trying to fiddle with the MoU to be signed between the Lebanese state and the Tribunal), but in securing the annexation of Christian population centers such as Jezzine, Baabda, and Marjayoun to large swaths of "Hizballah territory".

This while the group managed to break off other Christian centers, such as Zogharta and Batroun (both in the North) from neighboring regions strongly supportive of the Future Movement and other March 14 parties. That gerrymandering with electoral districts provided them with a reasonable chance to overthrow the Cedar Revolution's parliamentary majority, contingent on Aoun's performance in such Christian districts as Zahleh, Beirut's 1st District, Aley, the Metn, Kesrouan, Jbeil, Batroun, and Koura.

In each of these districts factors such as the formation of Murr-M14 list [in the Metn]; the murder of Lt. Hanna [from Batroun]; the candidacy of Nayla Tueni , daughter of the murdered Gebran Tueni [in Beirut District 1's Aschrafieh]; the fielding of "independent pro-sovereignty" candidates by the President [in Jbeil and, potentially, Kesrouan] ; and lasting ill will from Hizballah's assault on the mountain [specifically, Aley] are weighing heavily on Aoun's chances of success.

And so new and worsening stories of violence, threats of violence, and threats through violence continue to emerge.

It is no coincidence when [pro-Syrian] AMAL leader, Nabih Berri, calls for the holding of elections over several days due to security concerns only days before partisans of his party rough up dozens. It is no coincidence when that call is echoed by FPM leader Michel Aoun. Aoun, by the way, went on to spell it out for those too slow to catch on: "The M14 group can't guarantee the safety of their partisans's mass participation in one day elections." The question of protecting them from who didn't need answering.

And speaking of coincidences ...

Despite the threats and the violence, however, there are indications that the elections will take place on June 7th, as scheduled. The presence of independent foreign observers and massive security deployments that day will [most likely] ensure that ballot stations are free of violence. Attempts by Hizballah's allies to arouse worries over voters' safety as they transit to and from those ballot stations - recall that the attacks against Feb 14th ralliers came as they were making their way back to their homes across the country - will [hopefully] be mitigated by the shorter distances to be travelled in each district.

And if you don't believe me just ask the Syrians, who have reportedly promised the French, Saudis, and Americans that the elections will go through ... and people say the Syrians still have influence in the country ... hmph!

1 comment:

  1. Orange Storange4:57 PM

    check out this interview with Geagea on Now Lebanon, he says same thing:

    http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=82278

    The LF leader said the March 14 alliance would run its candidates on united electoral lists in all districts, including those in which the March 8 coalition had “traditional electoral power,” such as in Baalbek, Hermel, Marjeyoun and Hasbaya

    The undecided 25% of voters, Geagea told NOW, would determine the outcome of the elections in the Kesrouan district. The LF and its allies, he added, would win most districts in contest, especially in Mount Lebanon, where he said the situation of the March 8 alliance had deteriorated.

    Geagea said his alliance had almost found consensus around the Chouf, but the Baabda, Aley, Akkar, Zahle and West Bekaa districts remained problematic.

    He also commented on the last week’s clashes between the LF and Marada in North Lebanon and the bombing of LF offices in Kesrouan and the Metn last month. Geagea said the Free Patriotic Movement had called the Lebanese Forces to condemn the office bombings, a move he described as “good and effective.”

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