A box office success…

… Karim Makdisi nails it:

Lebanon’s June 7 national election was a box office success. It had it all: shady politicians, foreign intrigue, bribes, beautiful women, meddling religious figures, sectarian agitation, recently exposed spy rings, fundamentalists collaborating with capitalists, the poor and oppressed voting for the rich and privileged. It was a brilliantly marketed production with more twists and turns than a Hitchcock thriller, and an unpredictable finale in which the ‘good’ guys (the pro-US, anti-Iran, pro-‘moderate’ Arab, pro-‘peace process,’ March 14 coalition headed by Prime Minister-in-waiting Sa’ad Hariri, son of assassinated former PM Rafiq Hariri) defeated the ‘bad’ guys (the pro-Resistance, pro-‘Axis of Evil,’ anti-corruption Opposition coalition led by Hizbullah and Christian leader Michel Aoun) to retain their Parliamentary majority. All this accomplished with few security problems, record voter turn out, generally magnanimous winners and dignified losers. No wonder Western elections observers were smiling from ear to ear as they proclaimed, “free and fair” from the rooftops. They were, in the words of Jimmy Carter, so “proud” of the natives, who showed that they could be “democratic” and even managed to re-produce the patented “third world” grin and blue-ink-thumb of Iraq 2005 fame.

And see I’m not the only one who says it (although he writes it much better than me:

All in all, 80-90% of the parliamentary seats on offer had already been decided de facto prior to election day: most districts with clear Sunni or Shia’a Muslim majorities voted in their districts with frightening uniformity and discipline for the March 14 coalition and the Opposition respectively, and only the mixed Christian districts were genuinely in play with fierce competition between the two sides. The focus on Christian districts, in turn, brought out the kind of jingoism and chauvinism that has long characterized Christian elite discourse and inflated self-regard, with each side insisting it represented and defended the true interests of (Christian) Lebanon.Post-election analysis within elite Christian circles has thus centered on which side had won in the “pure” or “clean” districts, meaning those areas with Christian-majority electorate unsullied by Muslim voters. Under these conditions it is no surprise that fascist-lite candidates, notably from the March 14 Lebanese Forces and Phalanges Party, gained seats by recalling their old project of dividing Lebanon into ‘pure’ sectarian cantons.

To read also is Raed’s Gramscian insight on how the elections were doomed to be biased towards the majority viewing how the media and producers of knowledge are structured.


3 Replies to “A box office success…”

  1. Thanks for sharing those articles with us. I agree with you that they are the most insightful analyses on the Lebanese elections I’ve come across up to now.
    I believe their arguments are actually quite complementary and cover each other’s ideological flaws.

    The first paragraph you quote is wonderfully worded. The latter part of the second paragraph you quote is sloppy and rather obtuse, don’t you think?

  2. Well, it’s fairly simple. Do you agree with his depiction of the Kataeb and the Lebanese Forces as being “fascist-lite”? I find it ridiculous, as ridiculous as describing Jumblatt’s PSP as being socialist or progressive. I personally believe that most parties in Lebanon share similar vues:
    – On moral issues, they are conservative.
    – On socio-economical issues, they are either centre-right or centre-left.
    – On political issues, they are mostly traditional: firm believers in authority… of any kind (religious, patriarchal, socio-economic) except that of the state’s institutions.

    So what exactly distinguishes the Lebanese Forces or the Kataeb from the rest and makes them “fascist-lite”? In my view it’s a red herring inherited from past smear campaigns.

    As for the “post-election analysis within elite Christian circles” that he criticises, it misses the point. Karim Makdisi depicts them in the same way he sees the Kataeb and the Lebanese Forces, as crypto-Nazis who dream of moslemsrein regions. That’s preposterous. And it’s also erroneous.
    The most common analysis found within elite Christian circles centers on regions with a sizeable muslim population, and the aim is usually to show that FPM’s MPs were elected thanks to Muslim voters. Similar allegations were made by the FPM after the 2005 elections.
    These allegations are not meant to vilify the muslim voters or to call for ‘pure’ sectarian cantons. It’s all to do with the battle for recognition as Christian leader(s). A corresponding title was secured by Jumbatt (over the Druze), Hariri (over the Sunnis) and Berri-Nasrallah (over the Shiites) thanks to ressources that are unavailable to christian leaders today (weapons, external financial and political support).

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