MIDDLE EAST

Lebanese elections and regional dimensions

For the first time in Lebanon’s modern history, election headlines are almost nonexistent. With the exception of the Shiite camp, which has chosen its candidates from among its supporters, the rest have invited rich candidates who can bear the expenses while the head of the list is left with a few gains and profits.

As such, other participants, especially those who are part of the settlement which formed the government, have only one aim which is to increase the number of successful candidates on their lists, with the least possible expenditure. Some parties have the sole goal of not losing badly, especially those who were part of the March 14th coalition in the 2009 elections.

Why did I bring up the regional dimension of elections in the title of the article? It’s because Hezbollah underlines the political and strategic dimension of its existence and of the strong presence of Shiites in Lebanon and the region

Radwan al-Sayed

For example, al-Jamaa al-Islamiya has forged an alliance with the Free Patriotic Movement in several constituencies, while the Future movement has sought rapprochement or forged alliances with several parties in several constituencies. In some constituencies, Jumblatt is approaching Hezbollah and in others he’s approaching the Future Movement or the Lebanese Forces!

Electoral equations

Only Hezbollah doesn’t make any alliance with old rivals, and only appoints those within the party on its lists. As for Sunnis and Christians who are on its lists with the Amal Movement in Shiite populated areas, they are mere followers and not allies. This is proven by the fact that Hezbollah first announced the names of its 27 Shiite candidates in all of Lebanon, and then gradually began announcing the names of the other non-Shiite candidates. The only problem Hezbollah faced was in the Jbeil district, where Shiites hold only one seat and the majority is Christian.

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Usually the Shiite candidate is represented on the list of an influential Christian. But the party, in order to show its superiority, nominated a Shiite from the Zuaitar family and who is a Hezbollah official. The party convinced some Christians to be on the list which is headed by Zuaitar. Considering the preferential vote in the electoral law, only Zuaitar will win from the list because he will have the advantage among all other Shiite candidates. Only few hundred Christian voters will vote for Zuaitar’s list as most Christians will vote for other Christian lists particularly those of former MP Fares Souaid and the Aounists.

Hezbollah’s bid for legitimacy

Why did I bring up the regional dimension of elections in the title of the article? It’s because Hezbollah underlines the political and strategic dimension of its existence and of the strong presence of Shiites in Lebanon and the region. Ten days ago, Nasrallah told an Iranian delegation that the majority of Lebanon’s population was Shiite, but on account of certain vulnerabilities decided to convert to Sunni Islam or Christianity.

Today, Shiites are the most powerful force in the region, and not just in Lebanon — thanks to the policies of the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist. For months now, with growing tensions between America and Iran, the party’s regional duties have renewed. Ever since the continuous Syrian invasion, it has been working — along with the Revolutionary Guards — on increasing pressure on the Jordanian border and the front with Israel on the Golan Heights.

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It may act from southern Lebanon via its missiles. A few days ago, Nasrallah said that the Houthis firing of missiles on Saudi Arabia was “a significant military accomplishment.” As such, Hezbollah wants to acquire a domestic cover as much as possible, because it doesn’t have full approval in Lebanon and is charged with terrorism by Arabs and the international community.

Consequently, its existence in Lebanon is linked to the strength of its arms and the dominance it imposed. The party will improve things for itself if it gains a parliamentary majority to its side that may legalize its massive arsenal, as was the case with the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq, the other Arab country that is scheduled to have elections in May. In one of his recent speeches, Nasrallah stated: “The situation has changed. The majority of the Lebanese people support the resistance in deterring Israel and preventing terrorism!”

Regional dimension

The regional dimension is then the result of Hezbollah’s dependence on Iran and its readiness to execute its policies to undermine Arab security, endanger Western interests and commit blackmail under the pretext of confronting Israel. While the reality is such organizations are the ones that occasion terrorism and Israeli threat.

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According to intelligence reports on the Syrian issue, the Syrian regime and the Iranians have for months now allowed the infiltration of ISIS remnants through their areas in south Syria and the Golan Heights for two purposes: so these ISIS members fight with other militants and so their presence becomes an excuse for the Syrian regime, the Russians and the Iranians to intervene in the name of fighting terrorism.

Lebanese and Iraqi parliamentary elections, despite the banality of their published details and the blind Western love of electoral democracy, are extremely critical for the future of the two countries, because the advocates of Iran in both countries will go to the polls with their weapons as well as with their money.

This article is also available in Arabic.

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Radwan al Sayed is a Lebanese thinker and writer who attained a bachelor degree from the Faculty of Theology at al-Azhar University and a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Tübingen in Germany. He has been a scholar of Islamic studies for decades and is the former editor-in-chief of the quarterly al-Ijtihad magazine. Radwan is also the author of many books and has written for Arab dailies such as al-Ittihad, al-Hayat and ash-Sharq al-Awsat.

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Last Update: Friday, 6 April 2018 KSA 11:57 - GMT 08:57
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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