Metn election a nail biter as both sides claim victory

Aoun supporters putting on a show. Lebanon may be the only country where elections produce as much party fever as they do in the US.

And to think that these two ladies might be branded as terror-supporters by George Bush's new executive order sanctioning anti-March 14 activity.

In Beirut, the vote for Eido's seat was expected to be easily won by Mohammed al-Amin Itani, a candidate of parliament majority leader Saad Hariri's Future Movement, particularly since the Hezbollah-led opposition did not officially sponsor a candidate and has boycotted the election.

But in the Metn, the vote for Gemayel's seat is a bitter contest between two candidates including the assassinated politician's father, Amin Gemayel, who was president of Lebanon for much of the 1980s.

Turn out was estimated at 36% of the 140.752 registered voters in Beirut and 51% of the 165.734 voters in the Metn when polling centers closed at 6 p.m.

Ballot counting started and final results are not expected before midnight, but both sides are claiming victory.

Reported acts of violence were minimal with only three people wounded in fist fights and 10 arrested for alleged fraud, which is rather customary in Lebanon's elections since independence from French mandate in 1943.

Amin Gemayel faces off against Kamil Khoury, who is supported by Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun, a former army commander and interim prime minister allied with the Hezbollah-led opposition. Aoun's party dominated the district in the 2005 legislative elections, but al-Nahar, a newspaper that backs Gemayel is predicting his victory, claiming the Aoun's popularity has fallen off due to his alliance with Shiites rather than Sunnis.

This picture is of young Gemayel supporters helping an elderly lady
to the polls. The rose is an Amin Gemayel symbol of mourning
for his son, Pierre, who Lebanese authorities claim was murdered
by Sunni extremists and Gemayel claims was murdered on Syria's orders.

Comments (25)


1. ausamaa said:

I am not gonna say nothing this time.
But on a second though…, well,…nevermind!
Actually, I can not help it. Just one question:

Why are the Bush “favorits” loosing -Democratically- everywhere? Or should the question be: How come?

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August 5th, 2007, 10:05 pm

 

2. G said:

Leave it to the retards of Syria Comment to come out with this conclusion which indicates the level of intelligence on this blog.

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August 5th, 2007, 10:10 pm

 

3. ausamaa said:

Dearest G,

But those “retards” seem to share the same IQ as those voters in the Lebanese Al Maten according to the voting results (being Aoun winning against Feb 14)!

Anyway, Keep your spirits high, and things could become brighter; official results are not out yet, and miracles can always happen.

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August 5th, 2007, 10:17 pm

 

4. Alex said:

Spanish FM delivers ‘positive message’ from Syria for Olmert
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos recently requested a meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in order to convey a “positive message” from Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Moratinos returned several days ago from a visit to the Syrian capital, where he met privately for 45 minutes with Assad, and discussed the possibility of renewing negotiations with Israel.

According to sources who accompanied Moratinos, and who passed on information to their Israeli counterparts, the meeting between the senior Spanish official and Assad was “excellent.”

Moratinos, who had served as special European Union representative to the Middle East, reportedly relayed to Israel that he had heard interesting ideas from the Syrian leader regarding talks with Israel.

While requesting a meeting with Olmert, Moratinos said that he had a “special message” to convey from Assad, but refused to specify what it was.

“He is interested in furthering the peace process,” was all the foreign minister was willing to say.

Moratinos added that Assad had told him that “he is familiar with the problems that existed in the past and the various nuances involved, but he is interested in overcoming them.”

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August 5th, 2007, 10:45 pm

 

5. norman said:

I was in Spain last week and let me tell you that the Spanish people are more proud of their Arabic heritage than many Arabs in the mideast , there are more than five thousands Arabic words in the Spanish language and many cities were founded by the Arabs including the capital Madrid, i was so proud to let the guides know that i am an Arab from Syria , they put Abdelrahman the immigrant in a special class.

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August 6th, 2007, 2:44 am

 

6. Nur al-Cubicle said:

Results are confirmed (Via BBC)

Officials said Camille Khoury, of Mr Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, had won by just over 400 votes, or about 0.5% of the vote.

He defeated Amin Gemayel, a former president, leader of the Phalange Party, and father of the assassinated MP whose seat was up for grabs.

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August 6th, 2007, 2:46 am

 

7. Nur al-Cubicle said:

Ha!…it was the Christian Armenian-Lebanese (Tachnag Party) vote that swung the Metn election to the Aounistes.

Here’s a funny item in “L’Orient-Le Jour”: in the Beirut II district partial elections where Mohammad Itani (14th March Coalition) won with 86.3 % of the vote, there was a colossal abstention rate of 81.1%, beating all records!

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August 6th, 2007, 4:08 am

 

8. Alex said:

Nur Al-Cubicle .. the amusing thing from the Beirut elections is that the candidate who finished at the last place (fifth I think) got a grand total of … zero votes!

Does this mean that even he + his parents and wife and children voted for someone else?

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August 6th, 2007, 4:26 am

 

9. Enlightened said:

Alex said:

Nur Al-Cubicle .. the amusing thing from the Beirut elections is that the candidate who finished at the last place (fifth I think) got a grand total of … zero votes!

Does this mean that even he + his parents and wife and children voted for someone else?

Alex I think you have mis read the gravity of the situation:

“The Fool didnt even vote for himself” I wonder what the “donkey” vote would have been if these had been tallied?

Some are circulating that there were irregularities in the vote, people who have died, voting etc! Only in the Middle East we have comedies and circuses that pass for elections!

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August 6th, 2007, 6:01 am

 

10. Thomas said:

Compare these elections to the recent “elections” in Syria. The Lebanese elections might not without issues, but certainly are better than the recent presidential “election” in Syria where only the eye doctor was allowed to run for president. Is it true that the ballot directions in the Syrian election told voters to “indicate your presidential preference by circling the picture of the goat”?

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August 6th, 2007, 6:30 am

 

11. Jester said:

It’s a shame that the Beyrouth capital of Lebanon didn’t show civil democracy as the Metn area. It would be harsh to claim that the Christians are more democratic.

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August 6th, 2007, 8:22 am

 

12. Enid Houston said:

Enough of your childish ad hominems, remember you were “given” your independence after the Vichy France Nazi colonials separated you from Syria in 1943 before the British troops could sweep up Damascus from this great French heritage. Even the old man Hafez said this division was a fait accompli…so is your unique relationship with with your only other Arab neighbor, Syia…grow up youngsters before you tear yourselves apart again…try having a population census first…last one was 1933…but do you count the Palestinians…no….

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August 6th, 2007, 3:43 pm

 

13. G said:

A note to the idiot Enid Houston. In 1943 there was no such thing as “Syria.”

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August 6th, 2007, 4:01 pm

 

14. Kamal said:

“Yet again, the Christians are being divided – much, no doubt, to Syria’s delight…”

Robert Fisk: Mistrust fuels cycle of violence in Lebanon
Published: 06 August 2007

When, oh when, will the Lebanese Christians stop destroying each other? General Michel Aoun’s Free Democratic Party (colour them bright orange) stood yesterday, along with their pro-Syrian allies, against the Phalangist candidate Amin Gemayel, former president and father of the assassinated incumbent MP, Pierre, murdered – by Syrians? By rival Christians? You name it – last year.

For Gemayel, read authority, the power of the democratically elected parliament, the government of Lebanon and, much more to the point, the US-supported government of Lebanon. For Aoun – who once claimed to be “liberating” Lebanon from Syria in a disastrous 1990 war, but who would now like to be Syria’s president in Lebanon – it was a heady moment. His candidate, Camille Khoury, may not win, but he will reformulate the politics of Lebanon where “pro-Syrian” may become once more a respectable political label.

The issues are deadly serious, in every sense of the word. Pierre Gemayel, son of the putative successful candidate Amin, was shot to death in his car last November, and so a vote in his Christian favour – there are few Muslims in the beautiful Metn hills here – was a vote against his presumed killers, the Syrian security services.

Desperate to avoid the language of civil war -which all of the candidates speak in private – Aoun had earlier addressed a rally in the Beirut suburbs from behind a bulletproof shield, and abused his opponents as “windmills of lies,” adding, spitefully: “I will not call them sons of snakes, but sons of rumours, and rumours are like a rootless weed. Once you pluck it out, it dies.”

If it seemed sinister, try Gemayel’s warning to opponents “the Metn will never be a suburb of Damascus”, adding Syria’s political allies, especially Ali Qanso, of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, supported Aoun. The people of these hills – where his son is in the family crypt in Bikfaya – knew the ex-general was “dragging them to a battle they did not want” and the electoral battle was “dancing over the blood of martyrs”.

Yet again, the Christians are being divided – much, no doubt, to Syria’s delight – and the danger of inter-Christian fighting, which last week took the form of stonings and beatings in the streets of Beirut, has been increased. The sectarian system of voting (courtesy, originally, of the League of Nations’ French Mandate) meant the Armenian Tashnak party is supporting Aoun, a fact that has outraged the party’s supporters in the state of Armenia. What, on earth, has Aoun ever done to acknowledge the 1915 genocide of one and a half million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks?

It all goes back to a simple equation; if the Lebanese would trust each other as much as they trust in Washington, Tehran, Tel Aviv, Damascus, London or Paris, they would be safe, but the sectarian system of politics ensures the de-confessionalisation of Lebanon would destroy the country’s identity. Thus it lives, in the constant penumbra of civil war.

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August 6th, 2007, 5:24 pm

 

15. Ford Prefect said:

To G,

Some historical facts for your educational enlightenment:

8 March 1920: King Faisal was crowned as the first king of Arab Kingdom of Syria

25 April 1920: Allied Supreme Council, which did not recognize Faisal, gave the mandate of today’s Syria and Lebanon to France.

23 July 1920: General Gauroud, including some Lebanese Maronite fighters, occupied Damascus after the Battle of Maisaloun. The leader of the Syrian small army (few hundreds plus volunteers), Yousef Al Azmeh, told King Faisal: “Let me fight the French and die so that future generations will never say we surrendered.”

1 September 1920: General Gauroud established Greater Lebanon in a proclamation on the steps of Beirut Grand Sarail.

Hashem Atassi signed the First Franco-Syrian Treaty of Independence in 1936 in Paris.

Was there such a thing called “Syria” in 1943? You bet.

P.S. What’s up with the name calling, dude? Are you pissed off or something?

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August 6th, 2007, 6:18 pm

 

16. G said:

Yeah and people recognized Faysal’s “Syria,” didn’t they! That’s why the French bombed the living hell out of it and drove him out.

I repeat, there was no such thing as a polity called Syria until after the French mandate. Lebanon was never a “province” of Syria. Syria didn’t exist. Its parts were provinces of the Ottoman empire, as was “Syria.”

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August 6th, 2007, 6:26 pm

 

17. Observer said:

Itani won with 80% of the eligible voters staying home. This is a good analysis for you to look at below from Informed Comment global.
G is right in the sense that Lebanon as was drawn by the French was not a province of Syria, members of my family were governors of Damascus, Tripoli, Sidon and Hama in the late 18th and early 19th century. Many parts of Lebanon were provinces and my family has letters of allegiance of the late Prince Fakhr Aldin Almmani Althani to the governors of Damascus and to the Ottoman empire. These provinces comprised part of what is now Syria as well as Lebanon and Palestine. The creation of Lebanon as a home for the Maronites was not economically viable without expanding it. By the way it was not the only small state for another coastal state was to be created for the Alawites in the north and two other hinterland states one for Aleppo and one for Damascus. It is interesting to see how some are asking for even more divisions and separations and restrictions when we see the Europeans opening up and cooperating and loosening up. There is no doubt in my mind that some in Lebanon are still medieval despite all the veneer of the so called Western way of dressing and talking.
Two new history books about T E Lawrence and his maps for tne ME as they contrasted with the Jewish Aaronhson show that the drawing of the maps by the Zionists at that time had water resources foremost on their minds whereas the mandate powers had ethnic and religious populations on their minds.
First reflections on the August 5 by-elections in Lebanon

Muhammad al-Amin Itani won handily in Beirut in a by-election to fill the seat of Walid Eido, who was assassinated in June. Eido was a member of the March 14 alliance, which holds a slim majority of parliamentary seats. Itani’s victory was anticipated. The voters in his Beirut district are strongly supportive of Fouad Siniora’s government, and many are followers of the Moustaqbal–or Future–movement associated with the late Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri.

The real contest was in the Metn, the Christian heartland and the home base of the Gemayel family. In that race the contest was between Amin Gemayel (Jumayyil) and Camille Khoury, who is associated with the Free Patriotic Movement of General Michel Aoun. Amin Gemayel, of course, was President of Lebanon (1982-88). He is also the father of Pierre Gemayel, who was killed last November in a gangland-style killing. When he was assassinated, Pierre was the Minister of Industry in the Siniora government.

A victory the former President Gemayel would have been an important symbolic victory by the March 14 coalition and the Siniora government. U.S. policymakers were betting that the former president would win the by-election. The hope will be unrequited. In a close election, with a turnout of less than fifty percent, the victory in the Metn went to Camille Khoury and the Aounists.

Although the U.S.-supported government in Beirut holds a slim majority in the parliament, it does not enjoy the same level of support among the Lebanese public. As I have argued in various publications, and in a variety of interviews and presentations over the past year, the opposition enjoys broader support than the U. S.-supported government.

Aoun’s blood foe is Samir Geagea, who heads the Lebanese Forces, which greeted the Camille Khoury victory with the headline (in Arabic): “Congratulations to Bashar al-Asad for the victory of Aoun….” Aoun’s adversaries see him as a Syrian wedge back’ into Lebanon, much like the U S. does. No doubt. Syria is happy with the result in the Metn, but it is self-deceiving to imagine that Aoun’s continuing support stems merely from his (now) cordial relationship with Syria.

The general sustains his following among Lebanese Christians because many of them are disgusted by the political system, and its endemic corruption, favoritism and inefficiency. They also share the general’s scathing critique of the Siniora government. Whatever one’s feelings about Aoun, and I have longstanding misgivings about the general and his judgment, there is no denying that he has sustained durable popular support in Lebanon. While his alliance with Hezbollah–which precedes last summer’s war–has lost him some supporters, there is a structural coherence to the opposition alliance. Indeed, were general elections held now in Lebanon, the opposition would probably capture a majority of parliamentary seats.

I hope the U.S. Secretary of State will understand the importance of what has happened in the Metn by-election. Despite hearty U.S. support, the popular support of the Siniora government is far thinner than official rhetoric in Washington suggests. Taking into account defections and the August 5th election result, the government commands only a slim majority in the parliament.

This should suggest that it is now urgent to end the stalemate that has trapped Lebanon since Aoun and Hezbollah launched demonstrations to topple the government. They faded, but they have succeeded in immobilizing the government, and the economy for eight months

Meantime, as the continuing bloody battles in northern Lebanon illustrate, the political stalemate has not frozen the ability of extremist affiliates of al-Qaeda to set up housekeeping in parts of Lebanon. Nearly 130 Lebanese soldiers have died in the course of more than two months of tough combat in and around the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in the north (recall that the population of Lebanon is only four million, so the toll of military dead is immense).

It is crucial that the political stalemate end so the Lebanese government may turn its attention to the formidable dangers that confront Lebanon. The Bush administration has tended to view Lebanon in very black and while terms, as though our allies in the Siniora government were the “good guys” while Aoun, Hezbollah and a variant of other groups were the “bad guys Sorry, but it is just not that simple.

A Lebanese presidential election looms. Emile Lahoud. extended in office by Syrian diktat in 2004, is scheduled to leave office in November. The parliament is scheduled to convene to elect a president on September 25. A quorum of two-thirds is necessary for the election to proceed. A simple majority vote is necessary an to elect a president, once a quorum has assembled.

What is needed now is a dialogue between government and opposition. The U S needs to stop blocking that dialogue. Otherwise, if the presidential election fails, we have a small hint in the Metn election of how Lebanon may split.

Fostering instability in Lebanon is not something the U.S. should wish to do right now.

Augustus Richard Norton, Boston University

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August 6th, 2007, 6:36 pm

 

18. Ford Prefect said:

G, yes, you are correct: Lebanon was never a “province” of Syria; not in the past and never in the future (one would hope).

But you said Syria (as an entity predecessor of the current nation-state) never existed 1943. That statement is historically incorrect.

Cheers.

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August 6th, 2007, 6:51 pm

 

19. G said:

No, it’s not incorrect. Syria as an actual polity did not exist until after the French mandate. There may have been certain embryonic forms, that look different from the current Syria, but those still don’t make it an actual political entity called Syria as we understand it today.

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August 6th, 2007, 8:15 pm

 

20. Torstein said:

The mandate of Syria was originally a loose FEDERATION of five states, namely Damascus, Jabal Druze, Aleppo, Alaouties, and Alexandretta. As such, it could already be called a political entity.

In 1924, Aleppo and Damascus was merged into a STATE (of course under French mandate) called Syria. Definitely a political entity, even if it was not independent. Jabal Druze and Alaouties were incorporated into this state in 1937 and 1938 respectively (Alexandretta went to Turkey).

As Ford Prefect states, the Franco-Syrian treaty of independence dates from 1936 (including parliament, prime minister and constitution – pre1936 also had a parliament by the way, even if it was a puppet) and as such acknowledges Syria as a state, although not yet independent obviously.

Don’t know what this ranting about Syria not being a political entity. That Syria today is different from the Syria of the 1930s is of course the case, but so is most countries. A political entity is not necessarily defined by independence.

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August 6th, 2007, 8:39 pm

 

21. Bashmann said:

G give it up, you are totally wrong on this and Ford Perfect is 100% correct. Read this;

The French Mandate of Syria was a League of Nations Mandate created after the First World War when the Ottoman Empire was split by the Treaty of Versailles. Four mandate territories were created, with the rest of the territory placed under monarchies. The British controlled the Mandates of Palestine and Iraq, while the French controlled the Mandates of Lebanon and Syria. France and Syria signed a Franco-Syrian Treaty of Independence in 1936, but the Mandate continued because France failed to ratify the document. Syria was granted its independence in 1943, after Free French and British forces regained it from Vichy France in 1941. The French forces finally left the country on April 17, 1946: this day is celebrated by Syrians as “Independence Day” (Arabic: عيد الاستقلال), it is also referred to as “Evacuation Day” (Arabic: عيد الجلاء).

Get over it.

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August 6th, 2007, 8:53 pm

 

22. t_desco said:

Abu Hureira killed in Abu Samra (in the “shooting incident” that I had mentioned):

Lebanese authorities announce they killed Fatah Islam deputy commander

Lebanese authorities announced Monday that the deputy commander of al-Qaida-inspired militants entrenched in a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon has been killed.

Information Minister Ghazi Aridi said Abu Hureira, a Lebanese whose real name is Shehab al-Qaddour, was killed few days ago by police in the northern port city of Tripoli, near the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared where Fatah Islam militants have been fighting Lebanese soldiers for more than two months.

“Cabinet was informed by Interior Minister Hassan Sabei that Lebanese security forces have killed the Fatah Islam’s No. 2 in the Abu Samra neighborhood” in Tripoli, Aridi told reporters following a Cabinet meeting Monday night. …

A senior police official told The Associated Press that the incident took place five days ago, when two bearded men on a motorcycle opened fire on a police checkpoint in Abu Samra while trying to flee. Police fired back, killing one of the gunmen and wounding the driver.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give official statements, said the driver disclosed during interrogation that his companion was Abu Hureira.

Police took blood samples from the dead man and samples from Abu Hureira’s parents in the northern Akkar region, the official said.

“DNA tests were carried out which showed the samples matched,” he said, adding that Abu Hureira’s parents also identified him as their son.

He said the killing was not announced earlier because officials were waiting for the DNA results.

The official said it was not clear how or when Abu Hureira had fled Nahr el-Bared or how long he had been in Tripoli. The deputy Fatah Islam militant had spoken to the AP several times by cellular phone in the early days of the battle at the camp when he claimed to be on the front line fighting off the army attack. …
AP

The driver of the motorcycle was a close relative of Bilal Mahmoud/Abu Jandal (his brother-in-law, according to a report by As-Safir).

Both Abu Hureira and Abu Jandal were members of the Dinniyeh group.

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August 6th, 2007, 8:53 pm

 

23. why-discuss said:

Aoun may have lost christian voices after his alliance wih hezbollah but I believe he also won new voices of non-maronite christians (armenians and greek orthodox) who dont have a claim on a ministerial job and who therefore are politicaly freer. Aoun is a man whose alliance with hezbollah will be remembered in history as the step that may have saved Lebanon from a civil war and from the corrupted new generation of the maronite political families who have continuously weaken the christians in Lebanon. A good example is the vile criticism of Amin Gemayel towards the armenians after his defeat accusing them of not been “lebanese”, but he has not been able to find an external allegeance to blame them!! Note that a dummy L’Orient-Le Jour journalist said brilliantly that the new leader of the Tachnag party was born in Iran. According to him that explains why they are closer to Hezbollah! ( sic)
Now Armenians and Shias are the black sheeps of Lebanon!!!

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August 6th, 2007, 8:55 pm

 

24. Youssef Hanna said:

The imperialistic Anschluss idea that is behind the unending debate about Lebanon being a part of Syria torn off by colonialism explains maybe why pro-Syrianism is an accusation both Aoun & Gemayel threw on each other: both camps voters are anti-Syrian. Syria shd meditate on this and refer to history only as facilitating future cooperation after Big Sister accepts Little Brother’s significance, reality, and independence.

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August 6th, 2007, 9:12 pm

 

25. Youssef Hanna said:

WHY-DISCUSS, while i share your condemnation of the loser’s threatening comment against Tachnak (not Armenians), i believe the latter’s stance with Aoun owes possibly to Iran and Syria, where local Armenians favor indeed the power in place.

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August 6th, 2007, 9:32 pm

 

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