The March 14 bloc in Lebanon, that is heavily supported by the US and Saudi Arabia, came out ahead in yesterday’s elections in Lebanon.
Qifa Nabki has done a great job of pulling together and assessing some of the dominant current western explanations for this outcome, here.
Qifa’s own main explanation is this:
- Far more decisive, in my opinion, seems to have been: (1) the high turnout of Sunnis in Zahle — many of whom came from abroad — coupled with a low turnout of Christians; (2) strong feelings of antipathy towards Hizbullah by the Christians of Beirut who voted decisively for March 14th’s list in the district of Achrafieh; (3) some rare rhetorical blunders by Nasrallah in the past couple of weeks, calling the events of May 7th  “a glorious day” for the resistance.
This last point might well track with the one Paul Salem had made Friday, namely that “Hezbollah didn’t really want to win and give up its cozy seat in the opposition.”
Certainly of the “experts” Qifa refers to in the post, I would trust the judgment of Qifa himself and of Paul Salem considerably more than that of Andrew Exum, Rob Satloff, or Tony Badran.
The prime contest in the election was not, as many western analysts wrote, between Hizbullah and its opponents. Because of Lebanon’s blatantly gerrymandered and discriminatory political system, the Shiite Muslim community that is the largest single religious community in Lebanon, representing around 40% of the population, has only a tiny number of members in the confessionally constituted parliament. Hizbullah could only ever expect to keep the 11 seats in the 128-seat body that it had before yesterday; and it has done that.
The main contest, then, was inside the grossly over-represented Christian community. Here, Hizbullah’s allies in the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) apparently lost in a major way to supporters of March 14 who are also members of extremely well-entrenched political “families” and ardent supporters of the present system of Christian political privilege.
The FPM and its leader, General Michel Aoun, had offered a clear alternative to that system, as well as a strong political platform for this election. For those reasons, despite some other other misgivings I have about Aoun (and about Hizbullah), I wanted their alliance to win. Hizbullah, by the way, also supports a “de-confessionalized”, one-person-one-vote system in Lebanon.
It is truly anomalous that so many Americans, including Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, intervened in the election to support the anti-democratic March 14 coalition.
Now, I hope we can see another broad national unity government in Lebanon, like the outgoing one but hopefully a lot more effective in meeting people’s needs than that one.
There are, of course, several issues remaining from the election itself. Nicholas Kimbrell writes in today’s Daily Star that Carmen Jeha, the Deputy Coordinator of the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections (LADE) said her organization had identified over 900 “critical violations” of the election law.
To his credit, Kimbrell leads with that news, and then mentions the efforts and assessments of the the Lebanese Alliance for Election Monitoring (CLOE), which fielded Lebanese-citizen observation missions “with 2,500 monitors countrywide”, and which also noted significant violations.
Kimbrell then goes on to note that the Lebanese Interior Ministry, which organized the elections, and the foreign election-monitoring teams fielded by the EU and the Carter Center, had all given the election process relatively high marks.
I expect that in much of the western media, the assessments of the foreign monitors will receive a lot more play than those of the indigenous Lebanese monitors. But why should westerners need to give undue weight to western monitors (whose reach inside the country is anyway miniscule compared with that of the indigenous Lebanese organizations)?
If we really support democracy for all peoples, shouldn’t we also highlight, celebrate, and respect the work and assessments of indigenous Lebanese democracy-supporting organization much more than those of western teams who just parachuted into the country for a tiny proportion of the whole campaign process?