A few months ago, I sat down with a friend in London and discussed the current political situation in Lebanon. To be honest, I was pretty clueless as to what has been going on there but I did know that the upcoming elections were going to be crucial for Lebanon’s future. I have since met a Lebanese colleague at work as well who went into more detail and explained the different parties and the current situation in the country. It was interesting, to say the least, to see different perspectives on opposing parties and a good opportunity to learn more about it.
The parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place in Lebanon on June 7th. The two main competing rivals in this election are the “March 8“ group, which is led by the Iranian and Syrian backed Hezbollah and the “March 14“ group, which led the Cedar Revolution on March 14th following the assassination of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. March 14th calls for a free, sovereign and Independent Lebanon and wants a balanced relationship with Syria based on mutual respect.
As you may have noticed, we haven’t read much in the news in the past few days about the elections. However, many Lebanese people I have talked to have warned me that this is just the calm before the storm and that it’s going to be an intense weekend!
Ms. Anonymous (Let’s just call her Sara for now) was kind enough to share her personal opinions below on the upcoming Lebanese elections right before she caught her flight home prior to the big day. Sara has completed her Bachelors in International Relations, Development, and Middle Eastern Studies in the United Kingdom and is currently living & working in Manama, Bahrain.
Although Sara is a Christian by religion, she strongly maintains that before anything else, she is Lebanese and will always have the best interests of her country at heart. She also explained that the reason she is heading home tonight is to have the opportunity to vote for Kataeb, which is a March 14 Lebanese Phalange Party, as she is a believer in their “God, Family, & Country“ slogan.
June Seventh – A Moral Obligation?
Welcome to the proxy playground of the Middle East.
As the parliamentary elections are quickly approaching, both the March 8 & the March 14 coalitions are busy with their last minute campaigning, as they know that each vote is going to count this time. Yes, that’s right … each vote is going to count!
These elections are going to be the first set of elections since the July 06 War & March 08 events, which left the country divided and debilitated. To be honest, these are most definitely going to be one of Lebanon’s most crucial and decisive elections yet. Similar to any other Lebanese I’m stressed about them as well. Personally, I think Lebanon should be proud of the fact that before such a major internal political event, the environment is peaceful and relatively calm. As 128 seats are controlled by the majority right now and considering the fact that the potential changes will bring a new line forward in the parliament, the Lebanese people both at home and based abroad deeply understand the importance of casting their vote on this coming Sunday.
As disappointing as it is, the Lebanese community based abroad is currently ineligible to vote and I can imagine them struggling through this process. There are some who may feel that this is not their battle to fight and then there are others like myself, who feel that it is their responsibility to return to Lebanon immediately and vote. The absentee voting process, which was proposed in the Fouad Boutros Law of Electoral Reforms in 2006 was not carried out in time for the Lebanese immigrants to have the opportunity to vote in their country’s embassies around the world. So citizens with valid IDs have to physically be present in Lebanon to cast their ballot. Despite the fact that the elections are going to be extremely corrupt and problematic, I am not allowing that to bother me as our voices need to be heard under any circumstance. I strongly urge the Lebanese community based abroad to make the effort to return so they can sway the votes and help make a difference.
Lebanon has not and should not be another nation that blindly conforms to the Arab – Islamic Ummah, whose vision is to fervent in the GCC-MENA region. We have been a centre for intellectual thought, amazing art, profound literature, and promoting free thinking in the Middle East and we should ensure that we maintain this identity. I guess it truly comes down to the root of the country and Lebanon has retained a unique pluralistic identity due to the fact that there is a demographic make up with a Christian head of State. Lebanon should be that one nation in the Middle East that should play the role of the mediator and a leader in Foreign Affairs in this part of the world. We can’t allow proxy wars to be fought here anymore, as we will not tolerate it. Who gave our neighbors the right to use our land? Why not alternate between the different countries? Why just Lebanon?
These elections are shaping out to be the arena where the Sunni-Shiite card will be played out again in the theatrics of the Lebanese elections, which is almost as important for the Arabs to resolve, if not more so, as the tragedy of the Palestinians. This is also in part due to the dwindling of the Christian population, which by force majeure has been reduced to a side show. The Christian population has lost a lot of their powers in the past few years, which even included the Christian President to lose his powers to the Sunni appointed Prime Minister under the Taef Accord of ’89. If you take a closer look at the scenario, you will see that most of the hard-fought battles on the domestic front are always fought in Christian electoral areas, which include Beirut, Metn, and Keserouan. Whereas in the Muslim majority electoral areas, there seems nothing but peace and quiet as agreements between Hezbollah and their opposition Future Movements have already decided to elect two politicians ahead of the polls, which will include one from each sides electoral list.
Personally, I must choose to vote for the lesser of two incompetent evils, and have decided to cast my vote for March 14. However, before I explain my reasoning for it, I must clarify that I am not in favor of the high reliance we have on our relationships with the West including France and the United States, which would be similar to March 8’s alliance with Iran & Syria. I would like to see a free & sovereign Lebanon that finally takes advantage of its geographical location and has the opportunity to be a powerbroker in the geopolitical issues facing the region – who knows, we could even be the Switzerland of the Middle East with more panache?!
March 14 have launched a plan for the elections, which I can relate to and have learnt to appreciate as well. Some of these points include the protection of Lebanon from Israeli attacks, the imposition of the state authority over all its lands according to the Taёf Accord so that there are no weapons besides those of the state’s to keep Lebanon in harmony with the international community, to give a bigger role to the woman in the social, economical and political life in Lebanon, and last but not least, to commit to the Lebanese expatriates in the world supporting the independence of Lebanon, its sovereignty and prosperity, ensuring they have the same duties and rights as the local inhabitants, giving them the opportunity of investing and working in Lebanon.
I believe that I am less likely to see a semi-soveriegn state if March 8 is elected and I fear that their loyalties will lie with Iran and Syria. March 14, on the other hand, is calling for positive neutrality rather than authoritarianism in the governing process. Regarding a majority win by the opposition in the elections, MP Fneish of Hezbollah has reiterated that Iranian President Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah’s stance would strengthen the role of the “resistence” in the region. I believe that one of the reasons why the Lebanese must vote in favor of sovereign parties is to prevent Lebanon from being dragged into contentious regional and international conflicts.
These elections will be the completion of the liberation battle for Lebanon’s sovereignty. I am exhausted and tired of being a prisoner of dependence and just being used and abused by foreign countries. I want to see my precious Lebanon be an independent, democratic, and a peaceful country. I refuse to allow the essential democratic institutions to falter and crumble and I will do my bit to protect my culture, my way of life, and my country. No matter what happens on Sunday, I will keep my head held high in hopes of seeing a positive change. I truly believe that the results of these elections will shape the future of my fragile nation and I feel that it’s my moral obligation to catch that flight tonight to go and cast my vote to uphold pluralism in Lebanon.
God bless Lebanon, my beautiful country.