In recent days, the question of Hezbollah’s domination of Lebanon has emerged especially following the results of the recent parliamentary elections as Saad Hariri’s bloc lost seats while Hezbollah made serious electoral infiltrations in more than one area while gaining full control over the number of Shiite deputies in parliament.
For anyone looking from the outside, it would not be difficult to jump to the conclusion that Hezbollah through these elections now dominates Lebanon, and it would be difficult for people living in the country to not take such convictions in jest.
Polls no impediment for Hezbollah
Hezbollah did not need these elections to announce to the world that a huge part of the country's decision making process lies in its own hands, by virtue of the power of its weapons and its hegemony. There was nothing that Hezbollah wanted to do before these elections and couldn’t just because at that time it didn’t have enough MPs. There was nothing difficult for Hezbollah to achieve because of Lebanon's internal dynamics and which it will be able to do now because it has acquired a new deputy here or a group of deputies there.
Let's be honest about Lebanese democracy! In Lebanon, there are vestiges of a democratic system, of a state and institutions and among these leftovers; there are those who are resisting to preserve the minimum of the Lebanese system’s structure and state and institutions.
Ever since the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on February 14th, 2005 to this day, democracy has never been a guarantor for the Lebanese people and it was never an obstacle for the project of Hezbollah. The March 14 Alliance won parliamentary majority twice in the 2005 and the 2009 elections, yet only in rare cases did the alliance succeed in exercising its political majority in the face of the project of Hezbollah. As a leader of the opposite camp, Hezbollah shut down the parliament in which they didn’t enjoy majority for two years by exploiting weak arguments about the charter and other Lebanese political polemics. Then they modified the majority by forcing Druze leader Walid Jumblatt in 2011 to appoint Sunni MP Najib Miqati as a successor to Hariri after his government was toppled. The majority didn’t come to the rescue of the March 14 Alliance nor did it prevent Hezbollah from pursuing its coup stratagems, which it will later discover is not feasible in Lebanon. As usual, thanks to the national balance between the sects, Hezbollah will slowly move towards a consensus with Hariri.
Elections not significant
I will hazard a claim that these elections have little political value except for infusing some soul into the structure of the Lebanese state, its institutions and political system, and reaffirming the international faith in Lebanon as the remnants of a state that could be rebuilt in the destroyed and strained East. And this is important, especially in light of the new debt program proposed by Hariri after consulting with the president to keep Lebanon from the edge of economic, financial and monetary collapse, which is where it now stands. The most important balance is the balance outside the institutions and not within them — at the heart of society and not in the heart of the state. In this sense, the political results of Saad Hariri's election campaign were immensely more important than the results of the ballot box.
Hariri toured all the regions of Lebanon and all the Sunni regions, from Hasbaya in the south to Akkar in the north, through Sidon, Beqaa, Tripoli and Beirut. He received exceptional popularity for a Sunni leader, counting on the respect for his father. Hariri devoted his leadership that reaches all Lebanese areas to the Sunni community, and it’s an undisputed leadership even by those who achieved local results such as Abdel Rahim Murad in the Beqaa, Najib Miqati in Tripoli, or businessman Fuad Makhzoumi in Beirut.
Ballots vis-à-vis bullets
According to the recent elections which were held based on a proportional representation system, the number of MPs in Hariri’s bloc decreased. However, this is only a numerical decline for Hariri but not a political one as the largest Sunni bloc in Lebanon gave him its popular confidence, and gave him 60% of the Sunni deputies in parliament; meaning that he has the majority of the two thirds, even with the worst possible law. Forget about how the law tests the Sunni and Christian pluralism in the Lebanese collective and does not give an accurate picture of the Shiite diversity because the Shiite community in Lebanon is practically still outside the real electoral mechanisms thanks to the power of arms. This makes me certain of the lack of political significance of elections that takes place in two third of the country while the other third is practically left outside even if it participates in electoral practices. It’s unnatural, according to all the rules of the human sciences, that a sect who is being involved in wars, like the Syrian, Yemeni and Iraqi wars, and who suffers from material and human costs does not have or produce any rational pluralism - unless the ammunition boxes do not give the ballot boxes a real chance to display plurality.
So why did Hariri agree on a law whose consequences he was aware of? It’s because the variable that still governs this decision, as well as other decisions, is to go through the transitional period that the region is passing through without blowing up Lebanon. As for the problem of Hezbollah, it is no longer a Lebanese problem, so whoever has a solution may he please step up and share it, we would be grateful.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Nadim Koteich is a leading Arab satirist. His show DNA airs Monday to Friday on Future and Al Hadath channels. He is a columnist with Asharq Alawsat. He tweets @NadimKoteich.