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 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!