Al-Ahram Weekly Online   11 - 17 June 2009
Issue No. 951
Press review
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Majority rules

Doaa El-Bey examines the reaction to Barack Obama's speech in Cairo and the consequences of Lebanon's parliamentary elections

While some writers hailed the victory of the majority in the Lebanese elections, others question whether it can deliver.

Ghassan Sharbal wrote that the victory of the majority saved the opposition from a difficult test that it would have had to take had it won the election. It would not have been easy for Hizbullah to govern and carry on its role as an opposition party. However, one cannot deny the political influence of Hizbullah and the danger of separating or marginalising it. Meanwhile, the party needs to carefully read the message that the ballot box delivered to it.

The Western-backed March 14 alliance has the right to celebrate its victory and the mandate that the people offered it through the ballot box. Saad Al-Hariri can also celebrate the mandate the elections gave him; it is stronger and wider than that of his father's, as Sharbal wrote. One can say that Al-Hariri came out of the elections as a stronger leader who can take difficult decisions.

"Victory is a difficult test. Thus the loser should accept the rules of the game. And the winner should leave the international tribunal to do its job as long as that file is now in international hands. The March 14 alliance should acknowledge that a good relationship with Syria is required and that its respect for Lebanon's borders with Syria should be reciprocated by Syrian respect for the structure of Lebanese society," Sharbal wrote in the London-based independent political daily Al-Hayat.

Hazem Saghiya regarded the victory as exceptional because it took place under the umbrella of illegal weapons. The victorious side did not approve of such weapons.

Thus, it is not possible to say after the current election that the result of the 2005 poll was a mere emotional response to the death of the former prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri.

However, "it seems that the majority vote at the ballot box is one thing and the worship of power is another. Now, even more than any time in the past, there will be conflict between democracy and resistance. Thus, the title of the next chapter in Lebanese life will be the belief that even if they take their decisions via elections, they have to bow to the power of weapons," Saghiya wrote in Al-Hayat.

Mohamed Kharoub wrote that it would be difficult for the victorious alliance to accept its unexpectedly wide-scale victory easily. It is also shockingly hard for the defeated opposition to accept its defeat especially when it had confidence it would win by a good majority.

However, it is not wise to rush to the conclusion that 71 seats would allow the winners to form the government they want. Kharoub expected that the majority would show a gesture of goodwill by re-electing Nabih Berri as parliamentary speaker because it cannot take a risk by naming another speaker.

Kharoub did not expect that Al-Hariri would head the next government which is likely to be formed later this month because some influential Arab capitals believe that he is not experienced enough to manage a complicated country as that of Lebanon.

Also, the winning majority would still have to submit to some concessions to the opposition if it wants to avoid another division that could have more impact than the division that took place in the last four years. "Nobody can ignore the influence of Hizbullah and Amal as Shia groups and General Aoun as a Christian power. They are very influential in the Lebanese ethnic-sectarian equation," Kharoub wrote in the Jordanian political daily Al-Rai.

The Omani daily Al-Watan wrote that the Lebanese crisis finally came to an end after all that pushing and pulling from Lebanese factions. The election took place in a rather quiet atmosphere.

The newspaper's editorial submitted its felicitations to the Lebanese people for their ability to practise self- restraint and conduct the elections in a civilised manner.

Given that the people voted for their sovereignty, independence and Arabism, the Arab states expect from the new Lebanon to abide by the principles of the Arab-Israeli conflict and establish a more centralised state capable of protecting its hegemony and serving its people.

The editorial concluded by congratulating Lebanon again for its performance during the election, for the opposition's acceptance of the results calmly and for their present engagement in tidying up their new home with confidence and skill.

Like Al-Watan, Hassan Ezzeddin started by congratulating the Lebanese people for their performance and wishing that all the parties involved in the democratic process would act wisely. This is expected from those who previously proved an ability to prioritise the strategic interests of their country, he added. But it is essential from those who previously showed clear selfishness, if not fatal inexperience, in thinking as well as in performance.

The dangerous political game that took place in Lebanon in the last few years tried to give the impression that it would offer decisive results and a basis for change and put Lebanon on the threshold of progress and democratic development.

The winning party would try to use this impression for its own interests although it knows that "the political war that ended in the parliamentary elections is another phase in the state of fragmentation ruling Lebanon for a long time. In addition, the results would not have an effect on crucial matters but will contribute to keeping the political-ethnic status quo which is the cause for all the problems in Lebanon," Ezzeddin wrote in the United Arab Emirates daily Al-Bayan.

That is why those who care for the future of Lebanon question whether the winning party can initiate a comprehensive political reform process and start a new era that will put an end to the state of stagnation which paralysed the nation for such a long time. Or whether it will fail as a result of its adherence to the same slogans it used during the presidential campaign. The writer emphasises that that matter is very important because it would affect development in Lebanon.

Tariq Al-Homayed ascribed the victory of the March 14 alliance as a landslide victory to the logic of peaceful co-existence and to Lebanon as an Arab state. More important it indicated the defeat of Iranian plans in Lebanon and the Arab region.

The high Lebanese turnout, the highest since the end of the civil war, showed that the citizens felt the danger of Iranian influence in their country and voted against it.

"The landslide victory of the majority protected Lebanon from the Iranian project that aimed to transform Lebanon into an arena of war and separate it from the international community and Arab region," Al-Homayed wrote in the London-based political daily Asharq Al-Awsat.

He expected a similar result if a fair election is held in Iraq. The Iraqis would say "no" to Iranian influence like the Lebanese did, he added.

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