Letter from Lebanon: Lebanon Elections Produce Support for Government, Complaints of Rigging

By Raschka, Marilyn | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, October 31, 1996 | Go to article overview

Letter from Lebanon: Lebanon Elections Produce Support for Government, Complaints of Rigging


Raschka, Marilyn, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


Letter from Lebanon: Lebanon Elections Produce Support for Government, Complaints of Rigging

Unlike the 1992 Lebanese parliamentary elections, the 1996 polls will be remembered not just for wheeling and dealing but also some healing.

These five-phase general elections, Lebanon's second parliamentary polls since the end of the 1975-1990 strife, began Sunday, Aug. 18, in Mount Lebanon, the most hotly contested province in the country. Then over the following four Sundays elections were held in the provinces of north Lebanon Beirut, south Lebanon and the Bekaa.

Mt. Lebanon's label of "hottest" resuited from a law passed by the outgoing parliament which split Mt. Lebanon into six units, with the stated intent of bringing more fresh blood into the legislative body. The law allowed more candidates, but it also meant that candidates could no longer campaign across the whole province. Passed just a week before the Mt. Lebanon elections, the new law gave the opposition no chance to get its machinery into place, and the election results reflected that situation.

The new voting body will be more homogeneous -- most being supporters of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. From Hariri's point of view this means their economic outlook will reflect his, and thereby facilitate the implementation of Hariri's plans for Lebanon's economic transformation. This new tilt in parliament also will neutralize what is left of the opposition to government projects. And as a convenient spin-off, with a reduced opposition decisions that affect regional politics also will pass more easily through parliament.

But what price solidarity? Lebanon's internationally respected Arabic daily AnNahar ran a headline on Monday, Aug. 19, following the first round of polling, that read: "Democracy was defeated."

In Lebanon, no facet of democracy is more beloved by the media, political observers and the people than that of the opposition. The extent to which this is true is reminiscent of a line from The Godfather in which the don mourns the death of his archenemy saying, and I paraphrase, "You can always find friends, but a good enemy..."As the don looks away, a tear forms.

The opposition has both local and overas components. From abroad came the voice of Gen. Michel Aoun, the one-time head of the Lebanese army who, in 1989 when he held the reins of power, declared war on Syria. Syria won and Aoun is in his fifth year of exile in France. Amin Gemayel, the other absentee opposition leader, was president from 1982-88. Both men are anti-Hariri. Their call for a boycott of the polls was for the most part disregarded, but it caused dissension and confusion and wounded the opposition.

The hometown opposition boys were standard names and faces. The Robert Dole of the parliament, Albert Mukhaiber, a multiple incumbent who through his venerable age was known as the moral weight of the opposition, lost in the Mt. Lebanon elections.

The Costs of Victory

The near landslide victory for Hariri and his men didn't come cheaply or without sowing deep resentment. The incumbents had all the advantages. …

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