South Lebanon:  Confiscation, not election
By: Elias Bejjani
June 6/2005

Last Sunday nineteen Lebanese members of parliament were carried to seats in the parliament on Saudi petrodollar wheels in a milieu polluted with sectarianism and fanaticism. Nine of the nineteen contenders won their seats by acclamation while the other ten had a free and easy ride without any significant challenge due to numerous, Herculean pressures inflicted 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 members 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 in guilt feelings and religious obligation. The campaign tag stated, "those who vote against the Al Hariri tickets will be betraying the blood and sacrifices of the slain Hariri and siding with his killers."

Today in South Lebanon, in the second phase of the parliamentary election process (two other phase will follow in the North, Mount Lebanon and Bekaa regions), twenty-three MP's won their seats on fast sliding Syrian -Iranian wheels. They were members in a coalition between the two main Shiite armed militias, The Party of God (Hezbollah) headed by Iran's number
one man in Lebanon, Sheik Hassan Nassrellah, 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 one runner from Walid Jumblatt's Druze Progressive Social Party (PSP) and one runner from the Syrian Social National Party (SSNP).

Six of the twenty-three runners won their seats uncontested by acclamation among which the slain Al Hariri's sister, MP Bahia Hariri and her traditional Sunni rival in the port city of Sidon, Ossama Saad. Saudi Arabia--as most of the Lebanese believe--pressured all the Sunni runners 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 Muslim, fourteen Shiites Muslims, two Maronite Christians, two Roman Catholic Christians and one Orthodox Christian. The Hezbollah-Amal movement allied tickets 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 confiscated solely by both Hezbollah, Amal and their close 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 say so 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 Shiite community was well represented; no, not at all. Hezbollah and Amal have confiscated the community's free decision making process and forced their men on it. This bitter reality was voiced by tens and tens of Shiite runners, many of whom were forced to withdraw including the former House Speaker Kamel Al Assad and the prominent leftist politician Habib Sadek.

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

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

It is worth mentioning that UN Resolution 1559 demands that all 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 the UN Resolution 1559 and accordingly are Israelis and betraying traitors and therefore their hands should be severed.

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

Hezbollah completely controls all domains in this region, solely 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 and such milieus of fear and intimidation.

The Free world countries, the Arab league and the UN should not ignore the fact that Hezbollah 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 before the full implementation of the UN Resolution 1559. Until that day comes all elections in Lebanon will not produce actual representatives for the people.

Elias Bejjani
*Human Rights activist, journalist & political commentator.
*Spokesman for the Canadian Lebanese Human Rights Federation (CLHRF)
*Media Chairman for the Canadian Lebanese Coordinating Council (LCCC)