Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Portraying electoral results

Posted by worriedlebanese on 14/06/2009

Here are two graphs representing the outcome of the Lebanese parliamentary elections.

Lebanese Parliament 2009.jpgIn this graph, the pictures looks pretty simple. The Lebanese Parliament is divided in two:  the March XIV majority (with 71 MPs) on one side, and the March VIII minority (with 57 MPs) on the other. It is certainly the most common representation you’d find on the net. And most commentators had this representation in their head when discussing the outcome of Lebanon’s parliamentary elections. This binary representation of the elections didn’t come about with the proclamation of the results, but during the campaign. It was a very effective tool in mobilising each side’s constituency. It gave a national dimension to these elections that actually encompassed several communally based elections: three distinct elections meant to confirm the quadripartite oligarchy’s hold on each of its constituency (Shiite, Sunni & Druze), and one true election in Christian dominated districts where the outcome was uncertain. The dichotomy was very useful in this last case for mobilisation because of the strong political divisions within the Christian community, the extent of the hesitant or undecided vote, and the fact that no christian party or leadership could provide for its communal constituency what each party within the quadripartite oligarchy could offer to its communal constituency. Lastly, the binary division offered the foreign press a clear and simple reading of the elections, far from the arcane reality of Lebanese politics. No mention is made of the divergence between parties within each “coalition”. No mention is made of the internal rivalries between Sunni notables in northern Lebanon or between the allied Christian parties within the March XIV alliance, or between Hezbollah and Amal. And no mention is made of “independents” who have increased bargaining power and who can shift from one side to another (Michel Murr, for example, is close to Nabih Berri, Farid el-Khazen insists that he is not a member or a representative of the FPM, but part of the Reform and Change coalition spearheaded by the FPM, or Druze MP Anouar el-Khalil who is secretary general of Berri’s Liberation and Development bloc but has close ties to Walid Jumblatt and was close to Rafik Hariri for many years…).

Parliamentary blocksThis graph is less know. It was published by Elnashra. It’s not very accurate because it mixes between parliamentary blocs and party affiliation. You find the FPM on one hand (which includes FPM members and independents that are close to the party), but you do not find Amal, Hezbollah and Ishtiraqi (they are replaced by their respective parliamentary blocs:  Development and Liberation, Fidelity to the Resistance and Democratic Gathering).

I must admit that it’s sometimes quite difficult to distinguish between the party affiliation and parliamentary bloc affiliation, and at times not very meaningful. But it does illustrated the complexity of MP affiliation in Parliament.

You actually have three levels of affiliation: party affiliation (i.e. parties in the Lebanese sens), parliamentary bloc affiliation and national coalition affiliation. Blocs can shift… coalesce, separate, dislocate. Self-titled “Independent” MPs are actually semi-autonomous MPs (either local notables, MPs of the traditional type, remains of the Republic of-notables established by France;  or people who need “bigger politicians” to convert their social capital into political capital) and can bargain their membership to a bloc…

This second graph certainly gives a better picture of the Lebanese parliament and the communal & clientelistic dynamics within each coalition, bloc and party.

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