The DailyStar polls political analysts and finds: Nayla Tueni will clinch Beirut 1 for March 14th and Lebanon's Christians have no appetite for Michel Aoun's alliances (with Hizballah), politics (snuggling up to Syria), policies (attacking the Presidency and Patriarchy) or style (rant, rant, and rant). But the again we already told you that. Excerpts from the DailyStar piece below:
This week's confrontation between Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) head MP Michel Aoun and various March 14 coalition leaders over Nayla Tueni's parliamentary candidacy underscores the importance Aoun accords to the electoral battleground of Beirut's first district.
Two analysts interviewed by The Daily Star on Wednesday called the race [in Beirut's first district] for [March 14 candidate Nayla] Tueni, while two others said it remained too early to forecast a winner, but all said the spat represented only the first salvos in a campaign certain to be intensely fought and long on rhetoric.
"Michel Aoun is trying to intimidate her, to use psychological warfare ... and March 14 understands that," said Oussama Safa, executive director of the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies.
"It will be a bad loss for him if his list loses," Safa added.
With the 10 seats of Beirut's Sunni-dominated third district assured for parliamentary majority leader MP Saad Hariri's Future Movement, and strong March 14-allied candidates such as Tueni and former Minister of State for Legislative Affairs Michel Pharaon running in the first district, Aoun could well find himself in a "squeeze" in the capital, Safa added.
Hilal Khashan, head of the department of political studies and public administration at the American University of Beirut, said the Tueni name would handily carry Nayla Tueni to victory in the pivotal June 7 poll over the FPM's Orthodox candidate, Deputy Premier Issam Abu Jamra.
Aoun, however, thinks Abu Jamra can defeat Nayla Tueni, but only because he has yet to grasp how broadly the nation's Christians have rejected his political partnership with Hizbullah and his newfound closeness to Syria, Khashan said.
"He has a false political consciousness," Khashan said. "He is out of touch with reality. There is nothing he can do to justify to Christian voters his alliance with Hizbullah. The rank and file is not in the mood for his type of alliances."
Aoun also comes off looking like a hypocrite for leveling charges of nepotism due to the Tueni family history, while Aoun has long demanded political accommodations for his son-in-law, Telecommunications Minister Jebran Bassil, Khashan added.
Retired General Elias Hanna, who teaches political science at Notre Dame University, also predicted Tueni would win and said Aoun was merely inventing arbitrary criteria such as age and family membership in order to forge fiery political rhetoric.
Not only might Aoun be using specious arguments, but Abu Jamra faces numerous obstacles in Achrafieh as an "outsider" from the village of Kfeir in the Hasbaya region, Safa said.
In the first district's Catholic seat, Pharaon appears a lock to defeat FPM candidate Nicolas Sehnaoui, the analysts said.
"He will win, I'm sure," Safa said.
Khashan and Hanna also picked March 14 nominee Nadim Gemayel, son of assassinated President-elect Bashir Gemayel, to win the first district's Maronite seat over Massoud al-Ashkar, who fought by the side of Bashir Gemayel in Achrafieh during the 1975-90 Civil War.
Ashkar has a better chance than Abu Jamra because of Ashkar's established Achrafieh constituency, but the Gemayel family "legacy" should earn Nadim Gemayel the seat, Hanna said.
The first district's two Armenian seats, as well as the four seats of the second district, will turn on whether the dominant Armenian Tashnag party aligns itself with the March 14 or March 8 factions, the analysts said.
Many Armenians remain grateful to Aoun for backing the establishment of an all-Armenian electoral district, while rumors have surfaced that Tashnag has discussed an electoral alliance with Hariri, Hanna said.
In any case, the second district seems like the best hope for Aoun and the March 8 camp to make inroads against the March 14 Forces' sway in the capital, Khashan said.
"I expect the opposition to be able to score [in the second district] but not elsewhere in Beirut," he said. "It goes without saying - March 14 will take Beirut."