12/06/2009

Completed challenge in Lebanon

Many people felt relieved with the announcement of the election results in Lebanon last Sunday. The March 14 coalition, headed by the Future Movement of Saad Hariri, won a majority of 71 seats against  57 for the March 8 movement, led by the Shiite Hezbollah.

The anti-Syrian coalition witnessed a clear victory. Several global and regional changes may have had some influence on this result like the shift in tone of the new American administration, the possibility of a victory for the moderate candidate Mir Hussein Mossawi in the Iranian elections this Friday or the normalization of relations between Lebanon and Syria. All these assumptions have a certain legitimacy, but in a State where the vote is essentially based on communities, the decisive element of these elections was the vote of the Christian community, which had to choose between the Sunni pro-western March 14 coalition and the mostly Shiite movement of March 8 which has been joined by the Christian General Aoun.  General Aoun’s strong personality was not sufficient to convince the Christians who mainly voted in favor of the pro-Western majority.

Following the announcement of the results, many are those who have held their breath, waiting with apprehension for the candidates’ reactions.

Surprisingly, the atmosphere remained very calm. But while the losers appear to have peacefully accepted their defeat, they will fight for their representation inside the new government during the post-election negotiations. Disagreements remain concerning the granting of a blocking third to the opposition in the future Cabinet of National Union. Hezbollah intends to protect its militia from any ministerial decision of disarmament. However, the March 14 coalition is in favor of a « veto » given to the President of the Republic, who holds a mediating role, instead of the blocking third. If no agreement is reached, the risk is that Hezbollah may decide not to participate to the next government, taking a comfortable position in the opposition. One of the two parties will therefore have to make concessions to preserve the stability difficultly established last year.

In the end, Hezbollah from which some feared the rejection of the election results, accepted its defeat and the rules of democracy. Its popularity among the Lebanese people is nevertheless not affected by this result and the Party of God is keeping a comfortable place in the Lebanese society. The March 14 coalition is ready to lead the country but considers its role in a spirit of reconciliation and national unity. Therefore, these elections have undoubtedly strengthened the prospects for a lasting stability in Lebanon.

Nathalie Janne d’Othée