Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Dog Catches Car

What would a dog do with a car when if catches a car?

Aoun Gains a New MP Seat


Now, he’s only short another 50 to win the presidency. And he has to keep in mind that most Maronites in the Metn voted against his candidate, who was defeated in his own village. He’s going to miss his allies in Jbeil and Kesrouan.

And those Syrian votes will not come cheap

Gemayel Wins a Majority of Maronites


But then he wasted his moral victory by attacking the Armenian votes. Verbal outburst are expensive in politics… True, the Tashnag may have marshalled a few dead men to vote for Aoun. But those same zombies had voted for the Kataeb before, and could do so again when the tables are turned.

He will need all the support he can get if he hopes to be president another time. After all, we’re all here because of the great job he did last time… And his latest outburst does not look very presidential.

The Armenians Taught March 14th a Lesson


True, those who claim March 14th usurped the Armenian representation in 2005 by abusing Syrian-era electoral laws to impose MPs with only 3% Armenian support. But Bikfaya’s a long way from Borj Hammoud. By stumbling into a fight that is not their own, the Tachnag really stuck their necks out this time…

Far out.

Murr Established Himself as Kingmaker


But we knew that already, so why did he spend so much capital on something of so little consequence? True, the Syrians may have twisted a few arms, which explains why Sheikh Amine reserved his venom for the Tashnag. True, March 14th needs his son as a ministerial seat filler.

But how long can King Lear maintain his high wire act?

Back to square One...

Sometimes, politics is about more than just the art of the possible. It is about choices. Good choices, hopefully.

In this case, every one made bad decisions, and everyone won a little, but not enough to change matter. They fought one another to the stalemate prior to June 2005. So the question remains; as each top dog clutches their "victory":

Now that the dog caught the car…

What can it do with it?


Amos said...

Great post, Jeha.

I am still confused about the details of the Armenian brouhaha though. Can you explain this, from the IHT article on the May 2005 elections:

The Tashnag Party, which is composed of Armenians, was disgruntled because four seats normally reserved for Beirut's big Armenian community had gone unopposed to Hariri's candidates. It also called for a boycott.

Why exactly did these 4 seats go unopposed?

Jeha said...


The Syrian electoral laws were arranged to Jerry-rig majorities that the power-in-charge wanted.

There is a decent analysis by Barry Rubin on the way those laws work. Excerpt;

In the 1998 municipal elections, 40 percent of the candidates backed by the pro-Syrian Lebanese government lost. In the aftermath, Kana‘an and Bashar al-Assad, then his father's trusted aide, met with the Lebanese prime minister, parliamentary speaker, and other pro-Syrian ministers to further gerrymander districts in order to divide the opposition's support base. The new law subdivided Northern Lebanon into two electoral districts. The gerrymandering combined the largely Maronite Christian town of Bsharre with Muslim towns to which it was not contiguous, making victory by an independent Christian candidate impossible. Likewise, the government divided Beirut into three districts calculated to reduce Hariri's power. Bolstering the number of seats in parliament from 108 to 128 seats enabled Damascus to ensure a pro-Syrian majority. Unable to break an impasse over a new electoral law, the Lebanese government held its June 2005 parliamentary elections under the 2000 electoral law.

Gerrymandering has amplified the power of pro-Syrian politicians because, under the Lebanese confessional system, voters cast ballots for multi-sectarian slates of candidates

The Metn is the closets thing to a representative district because one of the region's strongmen, Michel Murr, was pro-Syrian. His continued local support is based on his proven skills at organizing his electoral base, and at bringing home the bacon to his backers.

Perversely, the "2000 Law" as it became known helps well funded candidates in the absence of Syrian coercion. This is what happened to the Armenian candidates in 2005, and Hariri was able to impose his own. The fact that the law was maintained is the single most important reason of Christian support for Aoun, and why he continues to have such an appeal in spite of his obvious defects.

What Aoun misses to understand is that this is all a negative support.

ghassan karam said...

May I add to the above only one observation. The allienation of the Tashnak party was exacerbated by the inexperienced Sa'ad Hariri who unwisely chose to confront them instead of reaching out to them in 2005. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely especially if you are green.
Politically, the General has proven to be a neophyte also. The victory of his candidates in the elections of 2005 was very much misunderstood by him. Instead of acknowledging the special circumstances that led to his candidates victory he interpreted the results as if all the voters had already become die-hard supporters of his ambition to become a president. Only unseasoned pols commit such mistakes.

I agree that the declared victories of Aoun, Murr,Tasnak and Gemayel are hollow. So they did catch up to the car? What next.
But it did not have to be that way. Had Gemayel not lost his self control when he learned about Bourg Hamoud and had he not had his rant on the radio and TV then he could have been a big winner of this by election. But instead he chose to chase the car...
These leaders cannot take us to where we want to go. If we do not change them then we will get to where we are heading, oblivion.

Amos said...

Thanks, guys. That helps clarify matters.

So, presidential elections are set to take place in a month and a bit. What are the chances that these will take place without a major challenge to the existing political structure? To rephrase: can the current Lebanese polity survive the presidential elections scheduled for 25 September 2007?