Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The North: A Different Ball Game!

Elections in the north are different! The demographics play a large role. The marked difference is that there are no Shiites or Druze represented in that region, which alters the political debate and discourse overall.

Tony from Across the Bay has been
critical of the past two Al-Mustaqbal editorials claiming they are focusing more on the Christian component of the electoral race. The answer is simple--the alliances that the Future Movement is striking purely revolve around their alliance with the Lebanese Forces/Qornet Shehwan/Bristol Gathering representatives and of course other Sunni politicians. Therefore, the debate will clearly revolve around the Christian component.

Moreover, Aoun is only fielding Christian runners-up, as opposed to other regions. So, again, the race will inevitably be coined as that of Aoun's/Franjieh's candidates versus those of LF/QS.

Remember, Omar Karami opted out of the race as well as the Jama'a Al-Islamiyya, hence leaving Franjieh and Aoun (both Christian figures) to pick the Sunni/Orthodox/Alawite allies to complete their list for the second electoral district (namely Tripoli, Zgharta, Batroun, and Koura), which again puts the spotlight on the Christians.

So...the north is different indeed. Jumblatt can talk as much as he wants (though Khashan's Al-Mustaqbal editorial today did propose that he tone down his rhetoric), he will not affect the north elections in no way, except perhaps push some Christian voters to opt for the Aoun/Franjieh list. Further, the talk of the Shiite component will naturally be absent at the moment because Hizbullah/Amal do not assume any leadership role in the north region.

I suspect that naturally we will be reading and hearing more debates during this week being coined as follows:
  • With Taif (LF) vs. Against Taif (FPM)
  • Loyalists (Roumouz Al-Sulta) vs. Opposition/Bristol
  • Future vs. Others
  • Outsiders vs. Locals
  • Moderates (QS) vs. Extremism (Franjieh/Aoun)

And please I would appreciate it if I could get more input for the list of potential debates.

On another level, this is the all new, unchartered territory for the Future Movement by the way. That is the first time a Hariri visits Tripoli and addresses its peoples. Moreover, if the Future Movement allied with LF in the Jabal (first time that Future allies with LF), Hariri was flanked by Jumblatt. Now, the LF-Hariri alliance stands out in the north and has to be aggressively justified and mainstreamed to both the Christian and Sunni voters, but in a way this new alliance symbolizes a step forward in national reconciliation and towards cementing the Taif mandate. Future Movement, therefore, is taking a leap of faith and hopes that the northerners head the call for change.

That is also the first time that a Sunni figure from Saida not only manages to enter the hearts of Beirutis (it took Beirutis a long time to accept Hariri as a Beiruti) and to win the hearts of the Bekai's, but is also reaching out to consolidate his popularity in the north.

And you know how our country is; it's a tiny place, but we can be hyper-localists and parochialists. Hariri now is giving the northerners a choice for something different, not a Franjieh, not a Karami, not a Mirehbi, not that historical patron-client relationship; he's providing an alternative. And somehow I believe that many northerners, especially those who are cosmopolitan, see Lebanon as a whole and do not mind "outsiders", if those outsiders have a plan to move the region towards development, a region that has long been neglected by its local leaders, a region suffering from high unemployment rates, high incidence of emigration, and delapidated social and economic infrastructure.


"Nobody knows how many rebellions, besides political rebellions, ferment in the masses of life which people earth."

5 comments:

reem said...

Just a piece of information I recently found out about: the turnouts percentages are actually based on electoral lists that include Lebanese living abroad...so these percentages are definitely an underestimate. I wonder what 25% for Beirut actually represents.

Mustapha said...

How about:
"This is a battle between those who want the Lebanon of March 14, Versus those who want the Lebanon of February 14".

Ain't that a piece of marketing genius?

Anton Efendi said...

Wlak shou ya Doha, it now seems that Hizbullah came out against the removal of Lahoud!

A bit awkward for Hariri and Jumblat, wouldn't you say!? In fact, Aoun is more than willing to remove Lahoud, and to lend his parliamentary weight to amend the constitution and shorten Lahoud's stay, but Hizbullah is against it, because Aoun said he wants Hizbullah's weapons to be surrendered to the Army!

Jumblat's little game with Berri now looks set to bring back both Berri AND Lahoud! I.e., he benefitted Amal-HA, and got nothing in return! HA will not oppose Berri, and now, won't oppose Lahoud!

I hope this means, contrary to the opinion of the second piece (link #2), that Hariri and Jumblat will work with Aoun and the Patriarch some more. The piece said that such a move would polarize the Shi'a. See what a nice mess Jumblat created!? Polarized the Christians by thinking he can step all over them by using Berri, and now he can't get rid of Berri and HA!

By the way, I still love Jumblat! No kidding! He's a piece of work!

Doha said...

By the way, another piece of info.: Yesterday MP Ahmad Fatfat, of the Future Movement in the north, said on TV that there are no guarantees for Berri to stay in his seat. He said, the Parliament chooses who to appoint, because in principal right now, Berri is not the Speaker of the House and the Parliament has the right to chose. Ali Hamade, the TV presenter, was surprised and asked whether he is speaking for himself or his movement, he said that he voted against the extension of Lahoud's term despite Hariri's 'yes' vote. Plus, he pointed out that Nayla Moawwad (if she becomes an MP) also promised that she will not nominate Berri for the upcoming four years (or let's just say 2 years, if they change the rules). He added that political calculations in the north are different from that of other regions. (makes sense, northeners are geographically more distant from the Shiite political component).

Nothing is certain. The Future is promising nothing, the same goes for Hizbullah. There's enough lack of trust going around. (For instance I read yesterday that Hizbullah has appeased Aoun and Jumblatt by letting its supporters to vote for Jumblatt's list in Baabda-Aley and Aoun's list in Kissirwan-Jbeil.) Aoun just yesterday agreed to work with Jumblatt and Hariri on the FPM program if he's nominated as President....

Let's see how this all unfolds....

Anton Efendi said...

I would agree with you that the Future Movement and its Christian allies would try not to bring Berri back. But it's not that simple. HA would still back Berri in order to avoid a Shiite split that could hurt it down the road.

On the other hand, if these two succeed in presenting Shiite community as targeted by a Druze-Sunni-Christian alliance ("backed by the US and France"), then their Shiites followers would be mobilized.

The question is will the Shiites be able to find a compromise and nominate someone like Hussein Husseini? It doesn't look promising.