Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Staging the Metn elections – 2

Posted by worriedlebanese on 25/08/2007

1.jpegUntil the very last week preceding the Metn by-elections, no one was sure if they were even to take place. Only two candidates were running and the party supporting one of them (Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, FPM) had announced it would withdraw his candidacy if it’s legal claim was heard. The FPM argued that the elections were not constitutional because the decree wasn’t constitutional because it hadn’t been signed by the President. They tried to cease the court
As it is usually the case in Lebanon, the real campaign started a week before the elections, and it was terrible. It couldn’t go lower, more trivial or personal.
On one side there was Amine Gemayel, a former president… backed by brigades of hysterical Christian politicians (all of those who lost against Michel Aoun’s candidates in the 2005 parliamentary elections, and a couple of those who won with very few Christian voices).
And on the other… Michel Aoun, even though he wasn’t running in these elections. Instead of backing his party’s candidate, Dr Camille Khoury, he totally eclipsed him, and transformed these elections into a dual between him and Gemayel.

There was no political debate to speak of. No platform, no program. The Lebanese media did a terrible job. For weeks they literally campaigned against the elections. Their offensive were spearheaded by the Maronite Patriarch who’s archaic-conservatism borders on the illiberal and the antidemocratic. Journalists insisted that the elections were unethical because the parliamentary seat rightly belonged to the father of the slain MP. Moreover, they argued, it was customary in Lebanon for a family member to replace an MP who died during the legislature; such bi-elections usually ran uncontested. Some politicians and journalists even added that contesting the elections, supporting the candidacy of any person against that of the person “chosen by the family of the diseased” or even voting for such a candidate, amounted to supporting the assassinations, and being an accomplice in them added the overzealous. For once, no one gave the “economical argument” stating that elections are expensive and actually too costly for the Lebanese State considering the state of the economy!

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