Nur al-Cubicle

A blog on the current crises in the Middle East and news accounts unpublished by the US press. Daily timeline of events in Iraq as collected from stories and dispatches in the French and Italian media: Le Monde (Paris), Il Corriere della Sera (Milan), La Repubblica (Rome), L'Orient-Le Jour (Beirut) and occasionally from El Mundo (Madrid).

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Lebanese Spring is Dead

Once again, Cécile Hennion, Le Monde's special correspondent to Beirut, tells us like it is.

The spirit of unity and reconciliation of Lebanese Spring is dead.

By winning 21 seats in the third round of legislative elections on June 12, Maronite General Michel Aoun has imposed himself as an indisputable leader of the Lebanese political scene.

The first question to ask is where his alliances with the pro-Syrians, his former adversaries, are going. General Aoun attempted to be reassuring by proclaiming his willingness to engage in dialog with other political factions. He also repeated that, We shouldn’t been seen as opponents and loyalists, but as reformers and conservatives. His close collaborators tell us that these alliances were merely temporary and tactical. The General, they say, remains the same convinced anti-Syrian who launched the War of Liberation from Syria in 1989.

We have to conclude that, just like Walid Jumblatt’s alliance with Hezbollah, Mr. Aoun’s alliances are an illustration of the fickleness of Lebanese leaders and the rapidity with which these alliances are forged and broken in the Land of Cedars. The daily Asharq Al-Awsat points to just one more example of the "incredible frivolity" of Lebanese politics.

Even if the intent is not present, the ancien régime, thought buried with the departure of the Syrian Army, has plucked a hair from the same dog. The former Interior Minister, Michel Murr, just won an MP’s seat. The next and final round of the elections features Sulayman Franjeh, a close friend of Syrian President Bashir al-Assad, on Mr. Aoun’s slate.

These unnatural alliances don’t seem to dissuade voters, even if a number of them have openly expressed their frustration and anger. They voted en masse for General Aoun, breaking all records of voter turnout in majority Christian districts to the detriment of all other opposition Christian leaders, swept away by the Aouniste tide. Even long-time politicians such as Nassib Lahoud were unseated.

The result is that the first session of Lebanese Parliament without the Syrian presence will not have two opposing blocks of pro and anti-Syrians, or even conservatives versus reformists, but four well-defined confessional blocks, nearly all led by familiar faces.

In addition to the Shi’ite Amal-Hezbollah block, the Sunni block, led by Saad Hariri, and the Druze block led by Walid Jumblatt, a Christian parliamentary block commanded by General Aoun has emerged.

Aoun’s victory reflects the need of Christians to have a single leader to oppose the Muslims, who are all united around their leaders, said opposition candidate Farès Soueid, a Christian, after his loss. The Christians have expressed their preference General Aoun’s tough and revanchiste language to the path to compromise offered by the Christain leaders of the opposition, analyzes Carlos Eddé, another opposition Christian leader left on the sidelines. When you feel threatened, the natural impulse is to rely on your instincts. In Lebanon, such instincts are confessional.

Following last Sunday’s third round of elections, the spirit of unity and reconciliation which propelled hundreds of thousands of Lebanese of every faith into the streets to demand the Syrian withdrawal, has ceased to exist.

[Update: The Lebanese model of consensual democracy, which was supposed to exported to the rest of the region, is dead. This should alert every reader to Bush's real aims.--Nur]


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