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Two Remarks on the Lebanese Elections If Held!

Two Remarks on the Lebanese Elections If Held!

Wednesday, 20 April, 2022 - 11:00

Let us suppose, for a moment, that the Lebanese general elections take place and that Hezbollah and its allies manage to achieve a parliamentary majority. In this event, we imagine the media would cover the outcome with emphatic headlines like: Elections Consolidate Legitimacy of Resistance. Hezbollah Will Assign the Next President and Form the Government, Several Governments. The Last Hurdle to Relations with the Syrian Regime has been Overcome. Iran Has Secured a Major Victory in Lebanon…

Thus, Hezbollah and its allies would achieve significant gains, adding them to many other gains they have already made.

Suppose, on the other hand, that Lebanese elections take place and Hezbollah and its allies are unable to attain a parliamentary majority. In this case, one can imagine media headlines would cover the event with questions: Will Hezbollah Accept the Election Result and the Government Produced by it? Will Hezbollah Agree to a Presidential Candidate Chosen by the New Parliamentary Majority? Can This Majority Achieve Where its Predecessors Failed? Will Tehran and Damascus Stand Idly by and Accept Lebanon's Parliamentary Elections Results?

The difference, here, sums up a lot. In the former scenario, electoral victory perpetuates the status quo forged through force of arms. In the latter scenario, electoral victory only renews the dilemma of the victors– a dilemma with many faces and forms.

And so, in the first case, the victor ascends to his pinnacle; Hezbollah achieves total victory and translates it directly into power and political decision making. In the second case, the victors embark on a journey whose destination has not yet been determined. They win nothing but a document for the archives.

The affirmation of the first scenario is not subject to interpretation. The second only raises questions –ones that may devolve into puzzles.

Political significance thus does not derive from the elections themselves or from the "popular will" that they express. It hinges on the winner, whose identity determines the political implications. In the first scenario, the electoral victory can be translated into a political victory; in the second, it only translates to depriving rivals of such a victory.

This contrast suggests that, in Lebanon, there are citizens who make policy and half-citizens who are governed by others' policies. The former remain victorious, while the latter is more or less defeated in uneven degrees.

Moreover, and mainly due to the force of arms and other factors, a Hezbollah victory would be a victory for Hezbollah. As for a "victory" by Hezbollah's opponents, i.e. obtaining a parliamentary majority, it would turn into a cohesive political body.

In the first camp, Hassan Nasrallah is the unanimously agreed-upon ultimate arbiter. Reconciling Gibran Bassil and Suleiman Franjieh in his headquarters in Beirut's Southern Suburbs speaks to his ability to impose consensus, even among members of distant sects in distant regions. His ties with the Amal Movement are stable, ensuring his sect's loyalty. His affiliation with Iran and Syria, and the resistance, guarantees him the ability to infiltrate the remaining sects and regions of Lebanon – aided by the weakness and fragmentation of these sects and regions.

On the second front, what do we find? Rifts between March 14 and October 17 ("civil society") forces that could not be sorted out. Hariri's "strategy," which has left Sunni votes scattered, further lowering the threshold for victory for Hezbollah's candidates in mixed regions and portraying the main political battle as being against Fouad Saniora and Samir Geagea. Many coalitions and attempts at developing consensus have faltered, perhaps due to Hariri's positions, like halting the formation of a united list between the Progressive Socialist Party and the Lebanese Forces in the Western Bekaa, for example. This fragmentation is also the result of petty quarrels, old or new, that politicians of narrow loyalties could not overcome, such as the Kataeb Party's disagreements with the Lebanese Forces, to mention but one example. Finally, and this is a foregone conclusion, there will be no ultimate arbiter in this camp.

The infamous political fragmentation of the Lebanese is controlled and regulated within the first front, allowing it to remain unified. With the second front, Lebanese fragmentation reigns supreme and is fully manifest; it may as well be multiple fronts.

As soon as we add the contingency of individual decisions to the big picture, especially the disastrous actions of Saad Hariri, we arrive at a very bleak outcome.

This does not mean that these elections, if held, would be an exercise in futility or an effort to be avoided. Obtaining a document presented to ourselves, the outside world, and history, on our situation and how the havoc wrought on politics in Lebanon by arms, is an endeavor worth making. However, it would be better to contain ourselves and our hopes for the elections, to forget the assumption that they could guarantee a smooth transition to a new, significantly improved state of affairs. That is not the case and never will be. After all, the arsenal can disrupt Parliament at will any time at the whim of those who have it!

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