Deen Sharp at his Lebanese Elections blog writes a useful and concise piece debunking the main myths spun by Friedman and other opinion makers in the Western press about the recent elections – and which make very little sense to anybody following the situation on the ground:
‘1. A solid majority of Lebanese Christians voted against the list of Michel Aoun (as stated by Friedman in his candy floss covered article). The FPM itself has 10 MPs, which is the same as the LF and Kataeb combined so the FPM is still the largest Christian party. While, the Change and Reform bloc consists of 27 MPs only beaten by the March 14 bloc itself. A solid majority of Christians did not vote against Aoun.
2. A solid majority of all Lebanese — Muslims, Christians and Druse — voted for the March 14 coalition led by Saad Hariri, the son of the slain Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri (again Friedman). The popular vote went 800,000 for March 8 (and FPM) and 700,000 for March 14. A solid majority of all Lebanese did not vote for the March 14 coalition. This was still a confessional electoral system and the vote was split along confessional lines, except in the Christian areas, thus “all Lebanese” did not vote for March 14.
3.Obama’s speech won the elections for March 14 and that the visits by Biden and Clinton persuaded Christian voters to vote for March 14 (Simon Tisdall of the Guardian and many other international commentators): While, of course this is not very tangible and is a simple matter of opinion I challenge this comment on the basis of where the elections were won: Zahle that went 7-0 to March 14 a result even the most ardent March 14 supporters were not expecting. The primary reason for this win is the 70% turnout of the Sunni population that occurred because of extensive persuasion by Saad Hariri. I have been told by someone working at the Kataeb offices on election day that Hariri made a call to coax Sunni voters to go out and vote, at around 3pm they came in bus loads. The idea that this exceptional Sunni turnout was becuase they were inspired by the Obama/Biden/Clinton (OBC) brigade to go out and vote in such force is highly suspect. I would even doubt many in Zahle even know who Biden and Clinton are and am suspicious as to how much the Sunnis of Zahle like Obama regardless of how many Quranic verses he quotes! In Beirut One, the other vital district, it may be more believable that the OBC brigade had some sort of effect. Personally, I feel it is much more likely that May 7th of last year when Hezbollah took over much of Beirut and the Aoun-Hezbollah agreement over 2006 cost the FPM the five seats in this district. In both districts and nationally Patriarch Sfeir’s last minute intervention on the side of March 14 is seen as having a significant effect in persuading Christian voters to go vote for March 14. But of course for most western commentators this does not fit into the secular-democratic-Obama-miracle that is March 14 against Iran narrative they are constructing.‘ The emphasis is mine: this is an important point, which is also reflected in the Western mass media largely ignoring decidedly undemocratic and unsecular Saudi Arabia supporting the 14th of March with large wads of money, reportedly spending more on Hariri’s re-election than the entire campaign budget of Barack Obama himself – this in a country with barely 4 million inhabitants and an electorate of roughly a million and a half. It also ignores the presence in Hariri’s bloc of important factions of both sunni and christian fundamentalists, and the extent to which March 14th has played on sectarian fears and explicit racism and ‘shiaphobia’ during their entire campaign – and of which Sfeir’s remark is only one example.)