Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Dog, Meet Pony

As the government proceeds with by–elections to fill the seats left vacant by the assassinations of Pierre Gemayel and Walid Eido. After initially crying foul, claiming that the “unconstitutional” government has no authority to organize elections, the opposition appears to be playing along.

To those who try to follow the opposition’s logic, there is a discrepancy here; their claim that the government is illegal does not jive with their participation in elections organized by said government.

But to those who note that those who claim March 14 have squandered away the legacy of the Cedar Revolution by short-term thinking and petty corruption, another question looms;

Can the opposition win?

The Metn: Presidential Hopes

On the face of it, this is a reasonable assumption, especially when one considers the Metn District, home to the “Bteghrinator”; Michel Murr and his Armenians allies. Conveniently for Aoun, his “Bteghrinator” ally holds the balance of power in the area…

But looks can be deceiving.

True, Gemayel is much discredited, but the “Bteghrinator” has to contend with him on the long run, and he cannot count on Syrian support this time. Like it or not, Aoun will be gone tomorrow from the Metn Landscape, but the Gemayel clan is still a permanent feature in the area, and Amine has a few tricks up his sleeve.

More critically, the “Bteghrinator” has to contend with the Americans. They may be discredited but, for all the talk about a deal with Syria, they are still dead set on supporting a government, of which his son Elias Murr is also a member as Minister of Defence. Those same Americans recently declared a few shady characters persona non grata for their support of Syria.

This may hurt; it is not clear how the increasingly restive Lebanese and Armenian Diaspora would react…

Beirut: Naming the Prime Minister

At first glance, this one looks like an easy Hariri win… But looks can be deceiving, again, partly because of blatant elitist politics, and partly because of math;

First, Hariri remains to many Beirutis a Saidawi upstart. Many a Salam, Solh, and Co. resent being sidelined by him, and would like nothing more than to stick it to the son. With this in mind, the Hariri’s running of a member of a powerful Beiruti clan is smart; those extended families were often MP-makers… Now they have a shot at the throne…

Second, there is a little math in this; Beirut’s second district has a strong “Shiite vote”, which can add to those who resent the “Hariri years”. This means that Hezb can play a role in this game, especially if it plays with Najah Wakim and his Nasser nostalgic crowd…

So Hariri has much at stake here, especially now that France appears to be moving away from Chirac’s “Tout Hairiri”, with Sarkozy’s trying to strike a more balanced relation with other Lebanese partners.

…Let the Games Begin

It all looks hard to predict, since all the contradictions will cause a lot of manoeuvring, in the run up to August 5th, we shall see how much the pro-Syrians have lost or gained. So time will tell whether the “Black Arabist” are now running out of options, like those like so many other dead-enders who are getting increasingly desperate for issues on which to squander oil money.

They cannot afford missteps, since the importance of those 2 elections extend beyond a couple of MP seats, for two reasons;

First, Aoun, with his claim of representing the majority of Christians, cannot afford to lose in Metn. And now that he named a candidate, withdrawing him would be viewed as a sign of weakeness. If he can’t elect an MP in a Christian-majority region, many would argue that he cannot claim the Christian seat, i.e. the presidency.

Second, Hezb has been much weakened, not only by the shortage of cash, but also by the loss of Sunni consensus. With Nasrallah’s “red line” at Nahr El-Bared and Fathi Yakan’s travails, the Hezb has lost any pretence of Sunni support. If it enters the fray in Beirut, even by offering limited opposition to Hariri’s candidate, it will lose even more; words do not come cheap, and there is a price to pay for the return of Sawsan “What-Took-Them-So-Long” Darwish to NBN, her non-apology… and for Berri’s non-condolences for Eido…

The opposition could still be short-changed by their Syrian masters, who cannot stand still. The Syrians may find it hard to “stay out” of it for now, and hold off the assassinations and terror attacks, the better to resume them later on…

If they lose, the opposition’s own contradictions, short-term thinking and petty corruption will be laid bare. They will have time to be reminded that they could have played it smarter. They could have avoided this predicament by offering to “resign” a couple of their MP’s to compensate for the “majority” loss. After all, they have Maronites and Sunnis to spare.

But jobs are rare in this recession.

Especially MP jobs


Anonymous said...

Nice post.

Stavro's cartoon is misleading. If it weren't for those mobsters in the pic, Lebanon would not be in such a dire situation today.

They were no better than their kids. Let's not idealize the dead.

ali bm said...

well Al-Murr has announced his support for Aoun's candidate along with the Armenians. hezbollah is still silent about which side it will back in beirut and odds are that they will remain so. i think that the maronite patriarch and many other forces are pushing for an agreement and a compromise candidate in Matn and i think that if a battle does happen, then it will be too close to call because though the Lebanese Forces announced their support for Gemayyil, they don't like him and nor does the general population. there is a common saying these days about Gemayyil: "he won the presidency with his brother's blood and he wants to win a seat in the parliament with his son's blood". so, yeah, it is hard to predict, especially if the beirutis don't come out to vote in strength, remeber last time the % of participation in beirut was around 20%

ghassan karam said...

I am glad, as every Lebanese and law abiding person should be, that these by elections are being held finally.
The fact that the elections are more than a year overdue, at least in the Metn, speaks volumes about the lack of decisivness of this ruling group. What was it that prevented the cabinet from putting into action the same plan it is using know but 13-14 months ago? How clueless and irresponsible can you get?

Anyway, we will find out in two weeks what the Metn is made off. Are the voters going to cast their ballots on the basis of issues and stands that reflect on the future of democracy in the state or will they vote as "sheep" who follow the instructions from their tribal leaders? If the Metn is to vote on issues then there can be only one result. A devastating loss to the Aoun candidate.

Beiruts' second district should also wind up in delivering a major victory for the March 14 supported candidate. I do not believe for a minute that HA and Wakim will amount to much in this district.Mohammad Itani enjoys the support not only of the future movement but also the implicit support of Tamam Salam who has decided that the present atmosphere is not conducive electoral battles between people who are essentially in agreement concerning the seminal issues facing the state.

g said...

J, I forgot to thank you for that lovely Stavro political cartoon. I make it a point to see Al Balad every day for the sake of Stavro. He is good.

JoseyWales said...

People in Leb and the Mideast can always be counted on to squander everything.

M14 blew the tremendous momentum they had by keeping Lahoud, kowtowing to Hezbo, and later not using the constitution (to call parliament etc..)

Speaking of law, M8 is doing whatever they want with it: sit-in, road blocks, parliamentary committees work but no assembly, 2/3 quorum for Prez election, partial elections are illegal (if they lose) and OK (if they win.

In the meantime Saniora and Hariri look like jackasses blowing hot air.

M14 has no credibility because it did nothing on corruption. M8 has no credibility cuz they are married to Syria on tribunal, borders (and Aoun, at the very least, is silent).

Now Sfeir wants a consensus candidate to avoid elections in Matn? Then he wants to complain that institutions are paralyzed????

Finally we have Sleimane saying he would resign his army-chief post if we end up with 2 gvmnts.

No one is making sense out there, no one is taking responsibility.

Jeha said...

One of the better moments was when "Kojak" (re: his old PSP neighbours) voiced his support for Mohammad Itani, he may have had a few grudges against the Hariri, but has chosen the high road.

Contrast this with Aoun's last speech. Whatever one's opinion is about "Monsieur 20 Pourcent" (re: his record), Salam was right. As qoted by Ghassan, it is a smart man who decides that now is not the time for "electoral battles between people who are essentially in agreement concerning the seminal issues facing the state"...

The risk/reward ratio is not worth it; one MP will not bring Aoun much closer to the presidency, and a defeat would dash all his hopes of ever ascending to the "throne"...

Lirun said...

love the comic