Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Lebanese idiosyncrasies 1 : “the Majority”

Posted by worriedlebanese on 12/10/2006

When a politician or a journalist in Lebanon talks about “the majority”, he is usually referring to the political support that a political coalition is said to enjoy. He either bases his estimates on his reading of the results of the 2005 parliamentary elections, on polls (some quite serious others quite odd and lightweight) or on unabashed speculation.

General Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and the former Bristol Alliance [Future Movement (FM)-Progressive Socialist Party (PSP)-former Kornet Chehwan Gathering (KCG)] are those who resort the most to this qualification. The FPM uses the following arguments: its candidates and their electoral allies gathered an average of 70% of the expressed Christian votes, and the Hezbollah and Amal parties gathered an even larger percentage of the Shiite votes. Put together they constitute the majority. And if Hezbollah hadn’t supported the Former Bristol Gathering in Mount Lebanon, the latter wouldn’t have obtained a majority of seats in Parliament.

The former Bristol Gathering (that calls itself the “March 14th Alliance”) disapproves of this reasoning and argues that nothing proves that the FPM still enjoys the same support it did during the elections, and that only the electoral results tell us who constitutes the majority. Accordingly, they consider that their alliance represents the majority until the next elections. 

To this argument, the FPM answers that the former Bristol Gathering is a false majority brought about by an unjust and illegitimate electoral law and an alliance with Hezbollah that has broken up since. Everybody agrees that the electoral law was unjust and illegitimate (especially towards the Christians), but it was accepted by the FPM when it decided to run for the parliamentary elections. So the electoral results are valid (except for those that are still waiting for the Constitutional Court’s ruling) and the former Bristol Gathering is the majority in Parliament. Differentiating between two majorities, one in parliament and one out of parliament is a useless exercise in political speculation. It has no legal consequences.

But the problem with the whole debate is that it ignores that the majority is in fact a broad coalition that regroups very different political groups that include the FM, the PSP, the Kataeb and the Lebanese Forces but also Hizbullah and Amal. The polarisation that started in 2004 between the Bristol and the Ain el Tineh (Amal and Hezballah) Gatherings continues, but it hasn’t up to now broken up the governing coalition and the support it enjoys from Parliament. 

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