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Op-Ed: South Lebanon: Confiscation, Not Election

Last Sunday, nineteen Lebanese members of parliament were carried to seats in the parliament on Saudi petrodollars in a milieu polluted with sectarianism and fanaticism.
Published: Sunday, June 12, 2005 2:22 PM


Last Sunday, nineteen Lebanese members of parliament were carried to seats in the parliament on Saudi petrodollars in a milieu polluted with sectarianism and fanaticism. Nine of the nineteen contenders won their seats by referendum, while the other ten had a free and easy ride, without any significant challenge, due to numerous Herculean pressures placed on their rivals, locally, regionally and internationally.

The electoral law according to which the election took place was tailored and imposed in the year 2000 by Syria to ensure its control on the 128-member Lebanese legislature.

Mr. Saad Al-Hariri, son of the slain former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, led this sweeping ride through three tickets under full Saudi and international sponsorship; financially, religiously and psychologically. The latter was the most effective and the most devastating. The widespread and huge Hariri media network stirred the peoples' emotions and their religious denominational affiliations in an organized pattern. The people were trapped by feelings of guilt and religious obligation. The campaign tag stated, "Those who vote against the Al-Hariri ticket will be betraying the blood and sacrifices of the slain Hariri and siding with his killers."

In South Lebanon, in the second phase of the parliamentary election process (two other phases will follow in the North, Mount Lebanon and Bekaa regions), twenty-three MP's won their seats on fast-spinning Syrian-Iranian wheels. They were members of a coalition of the two main Shi'ite armed militias, the Party of God (Hizbullah) headed by Iran's number one man in Lebanon, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, and the Amal Movement headed by House Speaker, MP Nabih Berri, Syria's number one man in Lebanon. Other secondary allies in the coalition are the single candidate from Walid Jumblatt's Druze Progressive Social Party (PSP) and the single candidate from the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party (SSNP).

Six of the twenty-three candidates won their seats uncontested, among them were the slain Al-Hariri's sister, MP Bahia Hariri, and her traditional Sunni rival in the port city of Sidon, Osama Saad. Saudi Arabia -- as most of the Lebanese believe -- pressured all the Sunni candidates in Sidon to withdraw, which was an unprecedented phenomenon.

The twenty-three MP seats in South Lebanon are divided on a religious basis as follows: three Sunni Muslims, one Druze, fourteen Shi'ite Muslims, two Maronite Christians, two Roman Catholic Christians and one Orthodox Christian. The Hizbullah-Amal ticket captured all 23 seats. The total number of the eligible registered voters in the South is 669,758.

The fourteen Shiite seats, the two Maronite seats, the two Catholic seats and two of the three Sunni seats were taken solely by both Hizbullah, Amal and their allies. The Orthodox seat was granted to the SSNP, one Sunni seat to Al-Hariri's sister and the one Druze seat to Jumblatt's PSP.

The Southern Christian communities - Maronites, Catholic and Orthodox - did not have any real say at all. Berri and Nasrallah handpicked their representatives against their will, and accordingly, they boycotted the polls. The majority of the Sunnis who do not reside in the city of Sidon, as well as the majority of the Druze community, were totally ignored and marginalized, especially in the Hasbia region. They, too, boycotted the process.

Some might think that the Shi'ite community was well represented. No, not at all. Hizbullah and Amal have corrupted the community's free decisionmaking process and forced their men on it. This bitter reality was voiced by tens and tens of Shi'ite candidates, many of whom were forced to withdraw, including the former House Speaker Kamel Al-Assad and the prominent leftist politician Habib Sadek.

In Beirut, the "made in Syria" unfair electoral law, the petrodollar and the stirring of emotions were the main tools of covert manipulation that secured the Al-Hariri tickets' victories. In the south, it was fear, intimidation, manipulation, poverty and UN Resolution 1559 that were crucial elements in the election's outcome.

Mr. Berri warned that a vote against the Hizbullah-Amal coalition is a vote against the resistance and a betrayal to the blood of the "martyrs". Meanwhile, Nasrallah threatened to sever any hand that attempts to disarm his organization, tagging such a hand as "Israeli". He even bragged that just thinking of disarming Hizbullah is a kind of madness.

It is worth mentioning that UN Resolution 1559 demands that all local militias, Lebanese and non-Lebanese, be disarmed. Nasrallah and Berri, in their religious and psychological manipulation, cautioned that those who vote against their tickets are siding with UN Resolution 1559 and, accordingly, are "Israelis" and "traitors" whose hands should be severed.

What happened in South Lebanon was not an election by any given criteria. It is simply a blunt process of armed confiscation of the southern citizens' freedom of choice. What happened in South Lebanon will continue to unfold as long as the status quo imposed by Hizbullah remains intact.

Hizbullah completely controls all domains in this region, runs its administrative, religious and educational affairs, patrols the borders with Israel and possesses a huge stock of missiles. The Beirut central government authority is cosmetic and decorative. No free election can ever take place under such circumstances, in such a milieu of fear and intimidation.

The countries of the free world, the Arab League and the UN should not ignore the fact that Hizbullah and Amal are Syria's actual army in Lebanon. They both were, and still are, in full control of Lebanon's regime, its brutal secret intelligence apparatus and the affairs of all its institutions.

In conclusion, Lebanon will know no peace and the Lebanese people will enjoy no freedom until the full implementation of UN Resolution 1559. Until that day comes, all elections in Lebanon will not produce actual representatives of the people.