Now that I had time to process the enormous quantity of Lebanese food you helped me pick, here are some observations about the ongoing Lebanese elections.
1/ Low level of enthusiasm is glaringly obvious, and will be reflected in low turnout. The 2005 and 2009 elections opposed clear camps and were defined by issues presented as vital. This election is occurring at a time of political confusion and fatigue.
2/ The electoral law has contributed to this apathy. People don’t understand it or like it, it incentivized the weirdest and most incoherent electoral alliances. Yes it has opened the field to new faces (independents and women are at last vying) but it is not transformational.
3/ There are real battles for the leaderships of the various communities. Will Hariri maintain his hegemony over Sunnis? Unlikely, but he will remain central. Will Aoun solidify Christian support for the 3ahd? Unlikely but Bassil is better positioned for the next prez elections
4/ Can Geagea grow politically and have a more serious MP representation? More seats but nothing significant. Will Jumblatt remain the dominant Druze leader? Yes, but his standing is being eroded.
5/ Lebanese politics are entertaining, exhausting, dispiriting and for some even fun. The reality is that all these dynamics don’t matter much: the rise of Hezbollah (domestically and regionally) and the prospects of an Israel-Iran war will define the country’s future.
6/ Hezbollah does face some dissent in the Shi’a community but coercion and intimidation appear to be working fine. It seeks to translate politically in Lebanon its ‘victory’ in Syria, but it does not want to talk too loudly about it. Hezb is playing quietly and smartly.
7/ What will matter is the composition of the future gvt and its statement. Will the ostensibly weird yet mutually beneficial arrangement btw Hariri and Aoun, with the acquiescence of and to the benefit of Hezbollah, continue? Very probably.
8/ All this leaves Lebanon very exposed: to Israeli onslaught, to Hezb unilateralism, to Gulf displeasure, to US pressure. Add to that bad, corrupt governance, mounting debt and a million other ills (garbage anyone?), so yes, let me go back to Lebanese food and arak to forget...
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