Beirut's elections, bad law & stirring of emotions
By: Elias Bejjani
May 30/2005

Lebanon's youth, pillars of the "Cedars Revolution" felt betrayed and badly hurt while bitterly watching the unfair and biased parliamentary election, the first round of which was conducted in Beirut on Sunday, May 30, 2005. For the last fifteen years these heroes have been persistently, peacefully and democratically struggling on almost a daily basis against the Syrian occupation and its installed Lebanese puppet regime.

They courageously refused to be subdued by the imposed Syrian occupational status quo, maintained their strong faith and never lost hope in the ultimate resurrection of their beloved Lebanon. Thousands of them were arrested, harassed, tortured, persecuted, imprisoned and suffered very serious consequences on all level and in all domains.

On March 14, 2005 in the aftermath of the assassination of the late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, they hit the streets leading the biggest peaceful demonstration ever known in Lebanon. More than one third of Lebanon's 3.5 million population followed the youth's steps while the majority of Lebanese politicians, political parties and clergy had no choice but to take part in the demonstration and overtly adopt the youth's declared aims and objectives of freedom, liberation, sovereignty and independence.

The outcome of the young people's ongoing patriotic struggle was rewarded and topped by the dream like end of the Syrian occupation, the quick toppling of the Lebanese intelligence security apparatus of oppression that was installed by the Syrians and by making Lebanon's independence and liberation a top priority for the free world countries' foreign policies after fifteen years of marginalization throughout which Syria was occupying the country.

Meanwhile the Lebanese Diaspora's Lobbyists played an extremely pivotal role in advocating for Lebanon's liberation, especially in the USA through the "Syrian Accountability and Lebanon's Sovereignty Act of 2003". This act made the American foreign policy shift toward a free and liberated Lebanon. It paved the way for UN Resolution 1559 that forced the Syrian army to withdraw from Lebanon.

The electoral law "of the year 2000," adopted in the current election process was drawn by Syria in 2000 to favor its hand picked, subservient Lebanese politicians. Applying this "made in Syria" law is actually a criminal act committed against the heroic youth in particular and against all the Lebanese in general. It is biased, unfair, rejected by the majority of the Lebanese and provides no equality at all for Lebanon's multi-cultural communities to freely elect their own representatives. It is a very odd and bizarre mechanism that uses contradicting criteria.

Beirut's Sunday elections carried to the Parliament nineteen MP's, all under Saad Hariri's flag and on his three electoral tickets. Nine of them won their seats uncontested (by acclamation), while the other ten faced no serious challenges. The electoral law made it possible for Saudi Arabia--in which Saad Hariri holds citizenship in addition to his Lebanese one--to interfere openly, using its financial, religious and international influences to clear the way for Hariri and his tickets. All prominent Sunni runners withdrew, while the Christian's ten runners were handpicked by Hariri against the will of their communities and in a very demeaning manner.

The Beirut election produced nineteen MP's that do not represent the majority of the Beirutis. Only four percent of the Armenian community, the second largest Beirut community after the Sunni population, cast their votes; 11% of the Christian community participated at the polls while only 28% of the total, potential 420,000 voters cast votes.

The oppression was widespread and hit not only the majority of the Christian communities, but also the majority of the Muslim communities. It was not an election process by any democratic criteria, it was an appointment act empowered and controlled by petrol dollars and public emotions. The killing of Rafik Hariri was used and abused by the huge media facilities owned by Hariri (newspapers, radio stations and TV stations), in a systematized, evil way to appeal to the Sunni community and play on their emotions. They made this community feel religiously obliged to vote for Hariri's tickets.

The youth, as well as the majority of the Lebanese people, were hoping to carry to the parliament actual representatives for their hopes, aspirations, pains and dreams of change for the better. They were viciously betrayed by the politicians who stood with each other to maintain their power and protect their individual interests. Most of these politicians were prominent pro-Syria candidates and in support of its occupation. Now they changed their face masks and are camouflaging a patriotic role.

The kind of elections that took place in Beirut last Sunday will be replicated next Sunday in South Lebanon where the Shiite's Hezbollah party, the Shiite's Amal Movement, the Druze Progressive Social Party and their allies will carry 23 MP's to the parliament in the second round of election. Because of the twisted electoral law, they were able to force their tickets on the people and handpick the runners. The oppression inflicted on the Beiruti communities will also be enforced on the Southern communities, especially the Christians whose MP's were selected by Hezbollah and Amal against their will.

What actually is positive in the midst of all this darkness is the fact that this election, in spite of all its atrocities and infringements, is taking place without the Syrian hegemony that has marked all the other elections since 1990.

The new MP's from Beirut who are practically appointed and not elected will be held accountable by the people based on practicing their legislative duties in addressing major national challenges; e.g., the disarmament of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, relations with Syria, the Arab-Israeli conflict and its peace process, the voting rights of the Lebanese Diaspora, the honoring of human rights, economic reforms and last but not least the drawing up of a fair and modern electoral law.

Although its Syrian occupation has ended, Lebanon still has a long way to go before its people can actually enjoy democracy and freely practice their rights, among which is voting.

Elias Bejjani
*Human Rights activist, journalist & political commentator.
*Spokesman for the Canadian Lebanese Human Rights Federation (CLHRF)
*Media Chairman for the Canadian Lebanese Coordinating Council (LCCC)