Thursday, March 19, 2009

DailyStar Polls Analysts on Metn Elections

Analysts polled by the DailyStar seemed to agree with the outlook posted on this blog all the way back in July 2008, that the Armenian decision will come in the 11th hour before the elections and that, most likely, it will be split between the three Michels: Murr, Aoun, and Suleiman.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the round-up [and one for which we've obtained very credible independent verification] is the spotting of interests in Armenia-proper which are aiming to influence the Armenian vote towards a pro-Syrian/pro-Iranian stance, given those countries' relations with Armenia. Below are excerpts from the DailyStar piece:
"If the Armenians side with March 14, then [the Metn] is guaranteed for March 14," said Oussama Safa, executive director of the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies. "If not, then there will be a battle." The 1989 Taif Accord reserves six of Parliament's 128 seats for Armenians, who make up about 9 per cent of Lebanon's Christian population, said a December 2008 report from the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections and Democracy Reporting International.

The choice before Tashnag comes down to continuing its relationship with Change and Reform Bloc head MP Michel Aoun, the March 8 coalition's top Christian politician, or returning to a previous partnership with Metn heavyweight MP Michel Murr and his freshly minted electoral ally, Phalange Party chief and former President Amin Gemayel, said Walid Moubarak, director of the Institute of Diplomacy and Conflict Transformation at the Lebanese American University. Tashnag will also have to factor in its traditionally close ties to the country's presidents, as well as pressures from Armenian groups outside Lebanon favoring one side of the political rift here, he added.

In considering Aoun, Tashnag and Armenian voters will be asking whether Aoun, the popular politician in the predominantly Christian Metn region, will have coattails long enough to carry the rest of his lists into the legislature and unseat March 14 as the parliamentary majority, said retired General Elias Hanna, who teaches political science at Notre Dame University.

In the feverish run-up to the June 7 poll, Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) is vetting potential candidates to see whether they had their own constituencies preceding Aoun's unexpected 2005 electoral success, or simply depend on the retired general to attract voters, Hanna added.

Hanna said he expected Tashnag to stay with Aoun because their 2005 electoral alliance restored Tashnag, which is supported by the majority of Armenian voters, to its full strength after five-time former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri had for years teamed up with two smaller Armenian parties to deny Tashnag the Beirut district's two Armenian parliamentary seats.

"The Armenians consider that Michel Aoun gave them what Rafik Hariri took out of their hands," Hanna said. "They consider that Michel Aoun gave them their rights."

On the other hand, Safa said the Armenians seemed [to] be leaning toward the March 14 Forces, which would deal a major blow to Aoun and March 8 hopes.


Longtime Tashnag ally Murr can also offer the party meaningful incentives to throw in their lot with the March 14 camp, Safa added. The peripatetic Murr has for decades cultivated close relationships with a succession of presidents, including President Michel Sleiman, and Murr's son Elias is serving as defense minister on Sleiman's nomination.


[President Michel] Sleiman has largely remained above the polarizing dispute between March 14 and March 8, and his status as a Lebanese president who is not a Syrian flunky also represents a new element in the equation for the Armenian's thinking, Moubarak said.

While Sleiman will probably not endorse any specific candidate list, his legitimizing of a nonaligned political center could give independent candidates a key role in the Metn and elsewhere, Moubarak added.


All the analysts said a majority of Armenians backed Tashnag and have usually voted as a unified bloc, but Hanna said some in the Armenian elite were wavering in their support for the party and its MP Hagop Pakradounian because Pakradounian did not reflect the elites' interests.


The Armenians will also have to deal with attempts by Armenians outside Lebanon to push Tashnag toward March 14 or March 8 - for instance, Armenian groups in the US will probably lobby Tashnag to side with the US-backed March 14 Forces, Hanna said.

At the same time, rumors persist that Tashnag backers in Armenia are working with Iran and so will urge the party to forge an electoral coalition with the Iranian-backed March 8 alliance, Moubarak said.

In the end, it remains too early to predict either how the Tashnag will decide or how other campaign coalitions will evolve in the Metn, despite the ongoing flurry of talks between the party and the various representatives from the feuding political camps, the analysts said. The negotiations have yet to bear any fruit, and all sides have been waiting to see the candidate lists submitted by the deadline, Safa said.


  1. Anonymous11:13 PM

    Michel Aoun and his FMP should loose in the elections: these ideas he’s talking about doesn’t represent the christian point of view.
    it’s time for aoun and his partisans to know that they don’t represent christians with their political ideas.
    Anyways it’s his responsability, and he should pay the price!! we are in a democratic country, and will be counting on people’s mind behind the curtain.
    About christian majority and unity, We should remember that Lebanon was strong when the lebanese kataeb party was strong, and lebanese christians were strong and unified when kataeb party was strong!
    It’s time for kataeb party, the “mother party”, to regain popularity and come back to the political life in Lebanon, in order to protect and preserve the christians interests in Lebanon.

  2. Anonymous7:14 AM

    old Kataeb is very different from the current Kataeb.
    Now let the Lebanese decide..
    As for me... Long live GMA!


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