Popular Vote Favors Lebanon’s Opposition, Despite Loss

Addendum: (My first numbers are wrong. They were hastily taken from a reader. A more correct number is a 9% win for the opposition in the popular vote, not 15% as I first reported. Here is a smart account by “B-side Beirut.” shooting blanks and the popular vote:

According to a study cited by al-Akhbar (bottom of the page), the opposition received 54.5% of the popular vote, whereas the ruling coalition received 45.5%. I find it funny that the total adds up to 100%. As far as I know, we have not succumbed to the two-party system yet and there was a visible amount of votes cast for people not running on either lists, especially in Hizballah and Amal’s backyards.

Now I am no professional, but here are the numbers I got when, instead of taking the voters as blocks of with or against, I added the total number of votes cast for the total number of candidates in three categories: opposition 50.4%, ruling coalition 46%, and other 3.6%. I only did the numbers once and I might have missed an affiliated independent or two, but not any with a considerable number of votes attached.

(Original Post) The popular vote in Lebanon favored the opposition by roughly 15%, but due to the vagaries of Lebanon’s electoral system, March 14 won. Aoun will speak today. Syria and Hizbullah have conceded gracefully.

These are the official numbers of the June 2009′ Elections
Friday Lunch Club.

The aggregate averages of voters in each district in Lebanon, shows that the ‘losers’ got 54.8% of the total votes (839,371 votes) and the ‘winners’ racked up 45.2% of the votes (692,285 votes).

Syria satisfied with Lebanon polls, praises spirit of reconciliation
9 June, 2009

Damascus- Syrian Arab news agency ( SANA ) quoted Presidential Political and Media Adviser Bouthaina Shaaban on Tuesday as saying “the Lebanese elections are an internal Lebanese matter” and said she expressed ‘Syria’s satisfaction over the safe and stable course of the elections.’

Shaaban underlined in a statement Syria’s concern for the” unity, stability and prosperity of Lebanon, and its readiness to help it in all fields to attain these goals.” SANA reported

Shaaban added according to SANA “Syria encourages the spirit of reconciliation shown by all the Lebanese parties, hoping that it will be turned into tangible steps through the national program in the coming phase.”

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah delivered a graceful concession speech on TV Monday in which he admitted defeat ‘with sportsmanship and democratic spirit’ , congratulated his opponents and confirmed the acceptance of the election results.

In the Daily Star

Nasrallah uttered one sentence that effectively left the door open for challenging the entire democratic process. The Hizbullah leader drew a distinction between what he called a “parliamentary majority” and a “popular majority,” thereby indicating that although the March 14 alliance won the elections, they failed to earn the loyalty of a majority of citizens.

Nasrallah is right on this score: The numbers show that the opposition garnered over 100,000 more votes than March 14 did on election day. But the electoral law gave greater weight to votes in some districts than it did to those in others.

This might make for a useful piece of ammunition in Hizbullah’s arsenal of arguments were it not for one thing: All of the parties, including Hizbullah, agreed to the rules of the game in advance. In fact, the law that was used to govern this year’s parliamentary elections was agreed to during negotiations that took place in Doha after the May 2008 clashes. Hizbullah, having demonstrated its superior military prowess during those street battles, could have tried to force a different electoral arrangement, but the party chose not to. There can be no turning back on that agreement now.

Lebanon feels the Obama effect
by Simon Tisdall
9 June 2009, Guardian Unlimited

The pro-west coalition’s narrow win in Beirut is the first indication that the US president’s Middle East message is being heard

Foreign policy experts and commentators have been trying to elucidate an “Obama doctrine” ever since the new US president took office. Lebanon’s surprise election result, in which a pro-western coalition narrowly triumphed, suggests these analysts have got things the wrong way round. Whatever the theory may be, the Beirut turnabout is the first, circumstantial evidence of a tangible “Obama effect” in the Middle East. It could be catching.

It would be fanciful to claim that Obama’s bridge-building speech to the Muslim world in Cairo last week, attractive though it was, crucially influenced Lebanese voters. But the calmer, unconfrontational tone adopted by Washington on Middle East issues since George Bush trudged home to Texas appears to have struck a chord in a country that was teetering on the brink of sectarian civil war one year ago.

Pre-election visits by Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, and Joe Biden, the US vice-president, underscored the importance that Obama attached to the poll. Some resented these interventions as unwarranted interference. But many Lebanese, particularly the nearly 40% of the population that is Christian, seem to have approved of Washington’s increased engagement; and to have heard its implicit message that a vote for Hezbollah and its allies would be a backwards step.

That refrain was underscored by exaggerated claims that Hezbollah and its Tehran backers, if further empowered, would turn Lebanon into a second Gaza. And if that was not enough, an eve-of-poll demarche by Boutros Sfeir, spiritual leader of the country’s Maronite Christians, may have done the trick. He warned the country was in danger. It was clear from whom he believed the danger emanated.

By giving the nod to Saad Hariri and his 14 March bloc of Sunni Muslim, Druze and Christian parties, which won 71 parliamentary seats against 57 for the opposition, Lebanon has provided Obama with his first significant regional policy success. The result is a setback for Iran, which has sought enhanced influence via Hezbollah. And it confirmed Lebanon’s 2005 rejection of Syria as the master manipulator of its affairs, confounding suggestions that Damascus was inching back.

The results are also a boost for western-leaning Arab regimes, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, that helped prevent Lebanon falling into the abyss after the assassination of Hariri’s father, the former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, and the subsequent, disastrous Hezbollah-Israel war of 2006. Saudi Arabia’s rapprochement with Syria, and a parallel warming of ties between Syria and the US, will be all the easier to pursue as a result of Sunday’s election.

Syria’s 2008 Inflation Rate: Jihad Yazigi reports a correction: Syria’s inflation rate stood at 15.15 percent, and not 5.4 percent, last year the Central Bureau of Statistics said. Read

From Thomas Dine – via the Pulse and FLC

Since the Obama Administration came into office in January, it has approached the Syrian regime with a certain coolness and caution. … Today, the U.S. sees Syria as promoter and supporter of terrorism, host of the leaderships of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad. In brief, the prospects of coming off the official terrorist list in the near future are nil. Syria has covertly tried to develop supplies for if not its own nuclear weaponry, accused again by the IAEA of such activity this weekend. Syria, according to American forces, continues to support anti-American violence in Iraq and thus a delegation of military officials to discuss joint efforts to shut off Arab and other insurgents operations inside Iraq is a necessity. Friction between Syria and Lebanon is an ongoing concern, and the election results will not ease the strain in American and Saudi views of Syrian activity and influence inside Lebanon’s body politique. Achieving respectful behavior toward Beirut is a problem on which the Americans remain greatly concerned and focused.

Syria Declares Emergency For Drought-hit Northeast: Authorities “have begun to distribute food aid in the worst drought-affected regions in the northeast” as part of a series of emergency steps. “Nearly 5,200 food rations have been distributed in Al-Hasakah and 15,000 more rations will arrive in the next few days,” said provincial governor Najib Salloum. He added that each food ration comprised 150 kilograms of flour, 25kg sugar, 25kg semolina, 10kg lentils, 2kg animal fat, 1kg tea, and 1kg oil, distributed to the worst-affected families.

Comments (27)

Majhool said:

The popular vote does not hold the same meaning as it does in the US presidential elections. The numbers has to do with the turnout in each district, which in turn related to the confessional make up of this district. If there is no battle, the minority in a district does not show up to vote. More turnout does not hold any significance.

Syria Comment has been loosing it. some respect for our intelligence is needed.

June 10th, 2009, 8:19 am


Sasa said:

Majhool, even the Daily Star’s pro M14 editorial conceded this – the Opposition won the popular vote. Your argument doesn’t hold water because there are more “safe” seats for the Opposition than for M14, so by that reckoning, if everyone had turned out to vote in every seat, the Opposition vote would have been EVEN higher!!

June 10th, 2009, 8:39 am


Majhool said:


Habibi, Daily Star is not the Bible. Why don’t you quote the Israelis?

Here is some mental exercise for you,


Safadi, 66, 539
Mikati 65, 076
Kabbara, 55, 511
Karami, 30, 313

The numbers that SC brought up are

54,763 for March 14
26, 293 for March 8

First the number spinner assumed the following

All voters voted for either march 14, or march 8, As if no one elected from both which is the case in Tripoli

Assumed that Safadi is not on March 14
Assumed that all those that elected Omar Karami, did not elect anyone else in the list.

Reality is voters in Tripoli who elected karami replaced Ahmad karami in the March 14 list.

All said, the system is based on 50% Muslims, 50 % Chrsitains in terms of seats with fixed number of seats for each sect.

SC has been a champion of minorities and regularly highlight the exodus of Christians from the middle east.

If you push the popular vote, although it really does not mean anything here, you are advocating for running the Christians over due to their dwindling numbers.

June 10th, 2009, 8:53 am


offended said:

Yes Majhool, pursuant to what Sasa had just said, look at the votes in Tyre and Bint Jebail; in both places the opposition didn’t need to turn up in earnest to vote. So your argument works but perversly.

June 10th, 2009, 8:56 am


t_desco said:

Is this just Friedman’s usual ME ‘expertise’ or a sign of something more sinister: the new narrative? –

Ballots Over Bullets
By Thomas L. Friedman

Ballots were the only weapons the March 14 coalition had against an Iran-Hezbollah-Syria alliance that is widely suspected of having been involved in murdering Rafik Hariri (…)
(NYT, June 9, 2009)

I’m glad to see that As’ad AbuKhalil has paddled back from conspiracy la-la land and now believes that the opposition was merely overly optimistic (at least he should notice that you can’t be both overly optimistic and have a desire to lose).

Any optimism concerning a substantial change in US policy is also misplaced:

Feltman Insists U.S. Will Not Deal with Hizbullah

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffery Feltman said Hizbullah should be disarmed and become a political party that functions in accordance with the Lebanese constitution.

Feltman, in an interview with Alhurra Arabic language satellite TV network, said that Hizbullah should abide by U.N. Security Council resolutions that call for the disarming of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias.

Feltman reiterated that the U.S. does not and will not deal with Hizbullah. He said Washington does not deal with a party that threatened its people through the use of arms in May 2008.

He told Alhurra that the U.S. looks forward to cooperate with the new Lebanese government and its people in order to strengthen its institutions, independence and sovereignty.

On U.S. aid to Lebanon, the top official reiterated that assistance depends on the moves the new government will make.

Asked about possible cabinet ministers, Feltman said that it is up to the Lebanese people to decide the formation of the cabinet.
(Naharnet, 10 Jun 09)

“A high-ranking State Department source” “said the U.S. and Lebanon’s friends were not comfortable with the experience of veto power in the government because many issues were frozen in the previous period.

A high-ranking State Department source also told pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat that it would be easier to cooperate with a Lebanese foreign minister who is not allied with Hizbullah.

About U.S. aid to Lebanon, the source said: “Washington’s assistance to Lebanon depends on what it wants and what it expects from the Lebanese government in terms of its partnership with the U.S.”

Aid also depends on the upcoming cabinet’s formation and policy statement, the official added.”
(Naharnet, 09 Jun 09)

Geagea: Veto Power with Minority Will Cripple Country

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea reiterated his opposition Tuesday to giving the minority veto power in government warning it could lead to the “complete paralysis” of the country.

“I support awarding veto power to the president of the republic because he is neutral and was elected through consensus,” Geagea said following talks with U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Michele Sison in Maarab.
(Naharnet, 09 Jun 09)

(my emphasis)

Regarding Iran, as I said, I hope that Anybody But Ahmadinejad wins, but there are still some problems.

Regarding the Daily Star editorial, this got to be a particularly nice specimen of mauvaise foi:

“All of the parties, including Hizbullah, agreed to the rules of the game in advance.”

As if changing those rules without a broad consensus would not lead to a full-blown civil war…

June 10th, 2009, 9:07 am


Shami said:

T desco ,may i ask you, did you mention the word “civil war”before these last elections ?

June 10th, 2009, 10:23 am


sean said:

I don’t really understand where that 15% figure is coming from. Even with the Friday Lunch Club numbers, I don’t see it. These numbers look more convincing to me.

June 10th, 2009, 11:12 am


Innocent Criminal said:

it seems like the 15% is a type-o??? best case analysis is pointing to a 9% difference.

Majhool, i think you bring an important point on how some minorities in some district don’t show up to vote but that is true for both sides. And popular vote IS important because technically and in an ideal world it is the most democratic form of elections. Which is why the American system is not very democratic (since Electoral College reps can actually vote their conscience and not what their population voted for).

But let’s not stray from the topic, my point is that the world is not perfect, especially in Lebanon. So the Christians get to keep their over-representation but it also means that Hizb, even though have lost, will get to keep their arms. Life is not fair and that goes both ways 😉

June 10th, 2009, 2:15 pm


t_desco said:


I’m not sure that I’m getting the gist of your question, but I had thought that the reference was self-evident.

June 10th, 2009, 2:52 pm


abbas said:

HA came back to the same habit again: turning defeat to victory, Turning a shameful day to gloriuos one and finally, turning the defeat in election to win. did they lose contact with reality?

What i like about Shabban’s comments is the upper supervisory tone she uses to speak about the elections. “Syria is happy….”

June 10th, 2009, 2:59 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

Karam Karam, writing for Le Monde, says the following:

Hezbollah and its Christian allies did not win the elections because the big battles for voters took place in Christian districts where it was unable to extend its influence:

The 14th March victory does not change much as the divisions are irreconcilable. Hezbollah will never agree to the truce with Israel that March 14 seeks as long as Israel continues to violate Lebanon’s territorial sovereignty at will and the Shebaa Farms issues goes unsettled.

Hezbollah lost 3 seats but can count on its allies to provide a counterweight to March 14.

In other words, the usual stalemate.

June 10th, 2009, 3:52 pm


Off the Wall said:

Reading the table indicate that there are approximately 110,000 plus votes for the opposition in two uncontested districts. So basically when there was a competition, the opposition fared with less than the 9% margin.

Generally, most post election lesson learned exercises posted by opposition friendly outlets point to the failure to act as a single solid block as being one of the primary causes of the loss. This failure heart Aoun’s candidates more than others since they were running in a hotly contested districts. At the same time, it seems that the opposition played a more civilized game than the M14 block as evidenced by al-Murr mafioso style phone call.

An important document is the preliminary report issued by the EU commission, which as described by the seemingly very competent minister of interior pointed that the system is far from perfect.
The report is found at

EU Monitors Report

Here are a couple of points from the executive summary (which had many positive things to say as well)

Election campaigning took place in a generally peaceful environment, despite some isolated incidents, and freedom of movement and assembly were generally respected. Limited competition in the majority of constituencies meant that campaigning activities focused on those constituencies which would effectively determine parliament’s majority. Financial resources played an excessively large role in the campaign and new regulations on spending have yet to have any notable effect on this phenomenon. The provision of welfare services by permanent foundations and networks affiliated to different political groups undoubtedly played a significant role in achieving electoral support. Campaign messages rarely focused on proposed social or economic programmes and the effects of the electoral system and of financial resources significantly outweighed any debate on political platforms.

June 10th, 2009, 4:32 pm


Shai said:

Sorry for bringing this up here, but I thought it was worth it: A.B. Yehushua writes a good article today in Ha’aretz: “Why do we insist on a ‘Jewish’ state?” http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1091809.html

June 10th, 2009, 4:38 pm


jad said:

This is the funniest comment:


An “invalid” ballot: “Shit on you and on these elections. ‘Banana republic.’ Signed: A decent citizen.” (Source: http://www.al-akhbar.com/ar/node/140198)

Thank you Sean!

June 10th, 2009, 5:09 pm


majid said:

Finally, Dr. Landis is beginning to admit he is wrong, “Addendum: (My first numbers are wrong. They were hastily taken from a reader. A more correct number is a 9% win for the opposition in the popular vote, not 15% as I first reported. Here is a smart account by “B-side Beirut.”

That is a good start dear Dr. Please continue adding addendums to your posts because you are still wrong. You also haven’t gone far enough in your disclosure. The last comment by Abbas (comment 10) explains exactly where you keep stumbling upon. You interlocute to western ears the agendas of the Syrian regime and its cronies in the, area in order to legitimize them and therefore you can never be taken as an objective speaker. Let me explain.

In the case of Lebanon, there is no straightforward method to come up with an accurate assessment of the popular vote based on ballots cast in an election as we witnessed on June 7. First in any one district, the voter would cast ONE ballot with the names of all his candidates listed on the ballot. He can also make his own ballot with his choice of candidates. In other words he can choose to vote for running candidates, for example, from M14 or M8 on the same list. He has to form his list, however, in accordance with the sectarian composition of the seats allowed for that district. It is not clear on what basis these so-called studies are conducted. How could they determine the popular vote from such system of voting? The system does not lend itself to a simple count or even an average of ballots to give you an indication of such popular vote. One thing I can say for sure is that the political parties involved, particularly those who lost i.e. Hezb and Co., have an interest at this point in justifying their shortcomings. So they will use any argument for that purpose, whether it has basis or not, after all this is Lebanon. Al-Akhbar article which you linked is written by non other than a Hezb propagandist, and if I have the time to translate it to the English readers I would trash every hypothesis the poor guy is putting forward. Nevertheless, it was the opposition which insisted on the use of this electoral law, which goes back to 1960, in the division of districts. So in effect Hezb has paid back for its shortsightedness of May 7, 2008 when it ran through the streets of West Beirut assuming it can capture power through the use of its armed gangs, made un-employed by its ill fated 2006 war which shut its thugs out of the south and left with nothing else to do but to turn downtown Beirut into ‘narjilah’ smoking cafes for the bums alienating the country against them. You know there is a very common saying in Arabic that you may want to relay to your mother in law as a consolation: ”ma bis7h illa alsa7hih.” People of W. Beirut at this point feel much vindicated and much relieved after the horrors that they had to endure at the hands of these thugs from 2006 until May 2008. So as a another consolation gesture to your mother in law I took the pains of writing these verses on my keyboard in Arabic, something I haven’t attempted for a very long time and it was an ordeal to complete:

ايار 2008 اول زحف عسكري مذهبي على عاصمة عربية 7
اذا كنتم الشرف فنحن الطهارة
واذا كنتم العنف فنحن الحضارة
لقد قمتم باحتلال بيروت وهذه حقارة
فاعلموا ان بيروت لا تركع لانها جبارة
لقد كنتم مقاومة ابطال ولكم الصدارة
ةلكنكم اصبحتم قوة احتلال وقوة غدار

As Abbas said above, this is yet another attempt to turn clear defeat into ’victory’. How else can we survive with the divine promise not getting fulfilled?

June 10th, 2009, 5:17 pm


Off the Wall said:

I think you should stick with “Nathr” and avoid poetry

June 10th, 2009, 6:03 pm


majid said:


I don’t believe I ever asked you for an advice. Neither will I ever will. Besides I never advise you on how to write. So what’s your point exactly? I’m all ears. If You have no point, then find another topic to talk about.

June 10th, 2009, 6:09 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

In Lebanon, it seems nothing basically changed,things will stay the same,except Saad Hariri may become PM,next year news will be Iraq,palastine and Egypt.Syria will not change its policy toward Lebanon,internally there will not be democratization,the economy will get worse.

June 10th, 2009, 6:13 pm


Alex said:



I was the reader who mentioned the estimated 15% figure in the comments section (based on t-desco’s link above).

But here is what I was trying to say (using the more recent numbers now):

The opposition got [839,000-692,000]=147,000 votes higher than M14’s votes … this translates to:

839,000 (opposition’s votes) = 1.21 X 692,000 (M14’s votes)

Which means that if the “winners” managed to increase their votes by 21% .. they would get the same number of votes that the “losers” got.

To put these numbers in perspective, look at the controversy of the 2000 presidential elections in the United States … Many democrats were furious because Gore got about 1% more of the popular vote than George Bush yet he lost the election.


June 10th, 2009, 7:26 pm


Majhool said:

9%, 15%, or even 40% it does not matter.

unless you weight M14/M8 votes in each ballot, stats will continue to be guesses.

Shias numbers are def highers than other sects when it comes to those residing in Lebanon.

Unless you increase the numbers of seats allocated for shias or spread them out in large numbers accross the country, nothing will change.

Still, once you advocate for such a thing, voices will heard advocating allowing expats to vote abroad. Millions of christains close to the west would tilt the equation again.

Short of another civil war, that’s not going to happen.

June 10th, 2009, 8:52 pm


Off the Wall said:

I guess i forgot to include the 🙂 sign.

As for my point, i made it in an earlier comment.

Biggest winner (Mr. Baroud) .
Money was bigger than programs
Popular vs Electoral is not easy (meaning that I tend to agree with you) not because of your comment, but more because of Majhool’s analysis *comment 3.

June 10th, 2009, 9:31 pm


Off the Wall said:


I am more concerned with regional inequities than with sectarian inequities. My calculations show that South Lebanon is at least 5 seats short. But at each district, the numbers varry. Akkar for example is 1.97 seats short.

June 10th, 2009, 9:38 pm


Majhool said:


Nice to see you around.

Yes my friend, shia RESIDENTS are under represented in terms of seats in the parliment. One has to be careful though becasue the numbers would be up side down if you count expats.

I am very concerned as you are, especially when it comes to Syria.

It has been 50 years since the syrian people lost their vote.
It has been 9 years since Bashar Assad came to power, and yet no elections or political parties are allowed.

Alex uesed to say 2 years ago, ” just wait fro one more year”!

June 10th, 2009, 9:49 pm


majid said:

Thanks OTW for the clarifications.

But I have an issue still with the causes of loss and winning in this contest the way you put them in your last comment. How about if we seek a third opinion?

Baroud of course is the big winner. You got that right on. Awn is the biggest loser I may add.


Your assertions about who has the largest majority among the sects in Lebanon are not based on facts. How about reading this clip from non other than Al-Akhbar (pro Hezb as you well know)? It showed just one month ahead of the elections the voters list based on sectarian divisions. The list of course was prepared by the ministry of interior which has proven its efficiency beyond any questions:

غسان سعود
قبل الدخول في التقديرات قبل شهر من الانتخابات، ومع اكتمال لوائح الشطب، ثمّة أرقام تستحق التوقف عندها. فبحسب أعداد الناخبين وفق الطوائف، يأتي السنّة في المرتبة الأولى (887471 ناخباً) ثم الشيعة (873418 ناخباً) في المرتبة الثانية، والموارنة (697552) في المرتبة الثالثة، والأرثوذكس (242640) في المرتبة الرابعة، والدروز (186491) في المرتبة الخامسة، ثم الكاثوليك (162519) في المرتبة السادسة.

For the English speakers here’s the breakdown:
Sunnis 887471
Shi’ites 873418
Maronites 697552
Orthodox 242640
Druze 186491
Catholics 162519

There is also a more exhaustive list showing the voters breakdown in each district. But it would be a mile long to paste, and I don’t have a link for it.

June 10th, 2009, 10:00 pm


Majhool said:


You could be right. I used one of M 8 websites to add up all eligeble voters across lebanon and it was arround 80, 000 more shia’s.

Either way, what I am pushing is: “Does it really matter?” giving the millions of expats that could be thrown into the equation?

You are right on in many issues. I went that path once but was ganged up on and was blocked many times.

I am trying to keep cool, especially that i ENJOY Alex’s work in Creative Syria.

Culture, and civil society matters to be the most at this point.

June 10th, 2009, 10:06 pm


Off the wall said:

Dear Majhool

Thanks, good to see you around too my friend

I must say that I am getting more concerned by the day. Sadly, one of my favorite songs is If tomorrow never comes, but in this context tomorrow never coming is not at all romantic.

June 10th, 2009, 10:12 pm


Roberto said:


The sum of the numbers you offer is 3,050,091. However, this Associated Press article (and others I’ve read on this issue, though possibly also from the AP) says,

“Voters lined up outside polling stations in government buildings and public schools across the country after polls opened. There are some 3.2 million eligible voters out of a population of 4 million. Early unofficial returns were expected late Sunday and official results as early as Monday afternoon.”

Why the discrepancy?

Might you provide a link to the Arabic source you’re using for this data?


June 14th, 2009, 3:55 am


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