Lebanon’s 2013 Elections Campaigns: Khlosna Ba2a

While politicians from Lebanon’s two main political camps bicker over an electoral law they can’t wait to disagree upon, the campaigns to kick off the 2013 election season have begun with “Khlosna Ba2a” – Enough is enough.

The main party behind the campaign is the National Dialogue Party (NDP), spear-headed by engineer and businessman Fouad Makhzoumi who’s a known philanthropist.

The campaign aims to show what I think the majority of Lebanese believe and it’s our utter disgust at the current situation of the country: corruption, immigration, violence, dismal economical prospects, lack of proper dialogue, entrenched sectarianism. And the list goes on.

While I believe that such campaigns, similarly to Take Back Parliament, should have been started a long time ago and not only a few months before the elections in order to rally people and have a functional grass-root movement to get their votes, it’s still nice to see that there’s at least potential for alternative candidates spread around the country who would run based on qualifications not based on how big their family is or how faithful to a corresponding party they are.

Either way, I believe that the coming few weeks will start seeing more electoral campaigns kicking off as the electoral law should – theoretically – be known by then. And I believe the least we can expect is interesting slogans. The least we can hope for is less “Sois Belle et Vote” this time around and more intelligent messages such as “Khlosna Ba2a.”

Here are the other ads in the campaign so far:

We’re sick of corruption and sectarianism. Enough is enough.

Our only option is dialogue. Enough is enough.

We want to stay in Lebanon. Enough is enough.

Let’s Talk About The Rights of Lebanese Christians

Lebanese Christians are worried nowadays about their constitutional also known as God-given rights of having a firm grasp on political power again. They want to vote for their half of parliament, they want to restore the powers of the president, they want to be the tipping balance between the ongoing Shia-Sunni feud.

They want their right to their “former” glory.

This “need” to feel more relevant politically stems from a conviction that’s rising among Christians lately that their presence in Lebanon is threatened.
I have no idea where they get these ideas from to be quite honest. Even if Islamists end up ruling Syria, even if the devil himself ends up ruling Syria, their presence in the country is not threatened one bit by those bad Muslims, especially not the Muslims of Lebanon who, whether we want to admit it or not, share our same woes.

While admittedly the past 23 years have been quite harsh on this section of the Lebanese population and some things need to be fixed when it comes to their status in Lebanon especially when it comes to political representation, is political isolation really the solution for the Lebanese Christian predicament? Is our politicians counting the number of Christian voters across the country really in our interest?

Are our rights as Christians really only summed up in us wanting to vote for 50% of an arguably stillborn parliament with members who don’t care about said rights to begin with outside of electoral-sectarian-fuel purposes? What is better for us as Christians, to vote for 64 useless parliament members without any qualifications just because of their “services,” their “name,” or their “political affiliation” just because it’s our “right” or to vote for less than 64 but actually qualified parliament members?

I find it ironic that Lebanese Christians want everyone to accept that the country’s president is one of them to rule over everyone else. But they can’t fathom how everyone else (Muslims) can get to choose a few of their MPs.

But I digress.

Is it my “right” as a Maronite from the North to choose the Maronite MP of Jezzine, an area I’ve never ever visited? Is it the right of a Maronite from Jezzine to choose my MP in the North just because he’s Maronite?
What does an MP’s sect have to do with guaranteeing rights? Why does an MP’s sect automatically means that person represents me? Does that restore our rights? Or does it violate them even more? Is an MP’s sect an automatic indication of their will to work, of their qualifications?

Is this how we get proper representation? Is this how we get “our rights?” Are “our rights” only summed up by having an MP from our corresponding religion represent us?

But yes, we, as Christians, do have rights that need to be accepted and acknowledged. We have the right to:

- Better roads: this (click here) is the current state of the main road in Batroun. It is my right as a Lebanese citizen first and foremost and as inhabitant of the region to have a decent road for my car. My Christian Maronite representatives are not providing me with this.

- Healthcare: how many decent hospitals do we have across the country? I can name three or four. And they are all in Beirut. Fact of the matter is most “Christian” areas have shortages in the healthcare system while it is our “right” to have a decent system to take care of us. I’ll take this even further: how many Christians in Lebanon cannot afford hospitalization due to rising costs? Isn’t it our “right” for a universal healthcare system to take care of us? I don’t see any “Christian” MP advocating this.

- Electricity: here comes the broken record again. Isn’t it our right in the 21st century to have more than 12 hours of electricity per day? Isn’t it our right not to have to pay two electricity bills per month just because our “Christian” ministries can’t even do a good job?

- Water: Beirut and Lebanon’s roads were flooded last week with water from the biggest storm to hit the country in years. A few days later, we were out of water. Is that acceptable? Isn’t it my “right” not to have water shortages in a country that’s arguably beyond rich in the substance?

- Internet: Don’t we, as Christians, have the right for decent Internet access in the 21st century? Shouldn’t we have access to speeds that don’t die whenever it rains, whenever it heats, whenever anything odd happens? Shouldn’t we have the right for a better infrastructure that’s installed and provided to us without corruption, without political propaganda and surely without us having to overpay for it?

- Security & Military Wings: Who among our “Christian” MPs is really working to boost security in this country? Who among our already-voted representatives can truly ensure our right for safety, our right not to become collateral damage due to some explosion somewhere? Who among our politicians is ensuring that some families don’t have military wings to threaten other people with?

- Wasta: isn’t it also my right to have the same chances for employment, for university admissions, for a proper life as the sons and daughters of our “Christian” MPs and ministers? Isn’t my right not to have to worry about being excluded from something I’m more than qualified to get into just because some other candidate knows someone who pulled some strings for him or her?

- Women: shouldn’t our Christian women be given the right to pass on the nationality to their children? Don’t they have the right to a state that protects them from abuse? Don’t they have the right for civil regulations that protect their rights?

- State of Law: isn’t it my right as a Christian to expect the non-smoking ban to be applied everywhere, not to have our tourism police in a deal with restaurants to violate the ban? Isn’t it my right as a Christian not to worry about people violating every single form of driving laws, of every single law known to man in this country? Don’t I have the right to live in a lawful state?

You know what’s the interesting thing about our “Christian” rights? They’re also the rights of those “Muslims” that we love to hate. They have the same rights in this country as we do. And they need their rights as much as we need ours.

We blame Lebanon’s Muslims of being blinded and of voting in sectarian ways to the same parties without any convincing reason. But it seems we have forgotten that we aren’t voting for reforms and qualifications as well, but to people who give us the same sense of belonging, the same sense of safety – to the same people who offer us a service a couple of days before elections and then forget about us for four years before they give us the allusion of fighting for “our rights” when the going gets tough.

Is it our Christian “right” to have a bigger say in our representatives? Perhaps so. After all, this is how Lebanon is made up. But it is our duty to have our say in these representatives count – in making sure that these representatives advocate for our rights as much as the rights of others who are not “of us.”

It is our right not to live in fear all the time. It is our duty not to blindly allow our politicians to make us afraid of everything else all the time.

The biggest threat to Lebanese Christians today isn’t the growing extremism around them, it’s the absolute neglect that they get from those representatives that we already voted for which leads us to leave the country and lose hope in it.

The biggest threat to Lebanese Christians are national policies which lead to the impoverishment of most of Lebanon while the focus is on making only select places more cosmopolitan. The latter areas become more liberal. The former areas fall into extremism and poverty and we panic about those “big bad Muslims” of Akkar and Bab el Tebbane being after us.

The biggest threat to Lebanese Christians today isn’t that we don’t vote for a full list of 64 Christian MPs. It is our mentality towards our own country: we have changed from people who founded the Greater State of Lebanon to people who just want their share of this country and the hell with everyone else.
And that, my fellow Christians, isn’t how we get our rights back.

Let’s Talk About Lebanon’s 2013 Elections: The Orthodox Gathering Law

One can argue that the French mandate was the root of Lebanon’s sectarian system. Its goal was to make a country that serves as a safe-haven for Maronites, with an edge in parliament seats and in governing powers. The sectarian divide in power reflected upon the people over the years. Blame the French? Blame everyone I guess.

Growing sectarianism and a feeling of injustice among sections of Lebanon’s population led to the Lebanese Civil war which culminated in the Taef agreement. The agreement took away most of the president’s powers, rendering him a near-puppet in a growingly tense political scene, and equalized between Christian and Muslim representation in parliament, despite the case not being so demographically.

Subsequently, a Syrian-led Lebanese regime managed to fragment Christian communities even more. The demographics, due to constant persecution, low birth rates and high immigration rates of Christians, continued to become even more lopsided. As it stands, Lebanon’s population is 60% Muslim and 40% Christian. That’s on a good day of statistics.

The problem with a skewed demographic, however, with an equally split parliament is that many of the minority’s seats cannot be chosen by said minority, regardless of what that minority is. This wouldn’t be a problem in a place where majorities and minorities didn’t view themselves as such: I have the power of numbers, therefore I rule over you.

That’s how the idea for an Orthodox Gathering Law came to be: the power that Christians lost over the years “must” be recuperated. And that should be done despite Christians not having the power of numbers anymore.

Here’s what’s given about the Lebanese situation today:

  • There’s no such thing as a Lebanese social fabric.
  • There’s no such thing as national unity – it only exists in the wildest fictive ideas of those who live in their own Lebanon-utopia
  • There’s no hope to achieve a state of national unity under current circumstances.
  • The biggest obstacle towards national unity isn’t regional (i.e. coming from different cazas across the country) but sectarian.
  • Sects always feel threatened by different sects in the country.
  • Sects are already more or less isolated and with rising bouts of extremism.

Apart from a minority in the Lebanese population, people identify with their sects first and foremost. They are more inclined to feel sympathy towards another person’s strife if that person is from their corresponding sect. It’s sickening, definitely. It’s horrible, you bet. But it’s the way things are. To fix this, you need to fix sectarianism.

You can’t fix sectarianism by forcing secularism upon people. You can’t tell a country with many who associate the current political system with being “religious” that the country is now secular which they will undoubtedly believe is also correlated with atheism. Off with their heads! No, the change towards secularism has to be gradual just as Lebanese gradually but surely became a sectarian state. People need to leave behind their sect-survival instincts in order to adopt a more global approach towards how they vote, towards how they act regarding others who are different from them, towards how they perceive those who are different.

For instance, here’s a little experience that I observed firsthand recently.

As news of Hay el Sellom in Beirut being flooded broke out, I saw two drastically different reactions in front of me. In my own little piece of the Lebanese Bible belt, people asked: Are those Shia? If they are, then ma3le (it’s okay). On the other hand, as Lebanese journalist commented on those people of Hay el Sellom’s grave violation of the law in where they built their houses, half of Twitter’s Shias, who tend to be on the more liberal side, were up in a fit.

Sectarianism is there – even among those who claim not to be sectarian.

As it stands, Lebanese people vote in a “to be or not to be” mantra. This needs to change. They are voting as such because:

  • Christians are made to fear wilayat al Fakih and those bearded Islamists.
  • Sunnis are made to fear the Shia weapons.
  • Shia are made to fear everyone being after their weapons.
  • Druze are made to fear anyone trying to breach their tightly-knit community.
  • Minorities are made to fear everyone else.

As this article is heading, you might believe this is in defense of the Orthodox Gathering law. If you had asked me a few days ago where I stood regarding that law, I would have told you this: Based on the current way that Lebanon is run, given the country’s state and fabric, the Orthodox Gathering Law makes sense. The way I see it, it doesn’t increase sectarianism and it might help, if sects stop feeling threatened, to get people to vote based on accountability which is very needed in this country. On the long run, if sectarian parties can no longer fuel people in a sectarian way then maybe – just maybe – that would help with things.

But that was a few days ago.

The MPs going on and on about how the Orthodox Gathering Law is unconstitutional and how it’ll increase sectarianism and whatnot are full of it. The only reason they are panicking isn’t because they want to keep the idea of Lebanon being an example of non-existent co-existence intact. They want to have their own behinds saved from the chopping block of a law that most probably wouldn’t vote them in again. Our MPs – all of them – are only seeking out a law that ensures they return to power. It’s as simple as that. The discussion isn’t about the country’s sake, it’s about their own personal interests.

Today, when I think about the Orthodox Gathering Law, I am not on the fence, I am against it. It’s not because I don’t believe it’s a must to tackle the growing “injustice” towards Lebanese Christians, whatever that may be. It’s not because it is demographically incorrect as it gives Christians more weight than they’re supposed to have. It’s not even because it’s sectarian in principle. It’s not because it makes it harder for centrists to break in. It’s not because it drowns out a secular minority that can’t identify with it.

I am against the Orthodox Gathering Law today for very simple reasons:

Why should I, as a Lebanese Christian, have the prerogative of having a law tailor-made for my sect and have it applied to all other sects as well? Don’t other Lebanese sects have woes as well? Don’t they have “minorities” whose voices are also drowned out by a Christian majority somewhere?

Why should I, as a Lebanese Christian, consider myself to be the only sect in this country who has rights eaten away and who needs some “justice” restored?

Why should I, as a Lebanese Christian, have to vote only for people who correspond to my sect without knowing if those people share my worries or if they’re even aware of the issues that I want to vote for? Does a person from a certain sect running for office automatically mean that person is knowledgeable of the issues that their sect faces? No.

My problem with the Orthodox Law today is simply that it tells me that I, Elie E. Fares, a Maronite Christian (on paper) from the mountains of North Lebanon, should have a problem in having a Sunni or a Shia or a Druze or a Catholic or an Orthodox or a Jew or a Alawite or an Ismailite or a Syriac or an Evangelical or an Armenian or whatever sect a person belonged to have a say in a parliament member that represents them all, not just me.

I believe that what the Orthodox Law is telling me is unacceptable. But I’m a Christian minority in thinking so. Most Maronites and Christians, especially some of our politician who double as Christian saviors-wannabes, want you to believe that what I believe is wrong. They are telling you that their way is the only way for you to get your rights. They want you to believe that if Christians don’t elect every single Christian-designated MP, then they’re being persecuted.

The Orthodox Law isn’t the way we get back our “rights.” We get back our rights by voting to people who can fight for those rights without turning it into a media propaganda as they kickstart their 2013 election prospects. We get back our rights by actually knowing what our rights are. And let me tell you, those rights aren’t Lebanon’s Christians selecting half of its parliament all by themselves.

So as our politicians play a game of chess with each other, you know what your rights are according to some of them? You only have the right to be afraid of everyone else all the time. You only have the right to believe you are persecuted all the time – that those big bad Sunnis and Shia and Muslims are after you all the time. Welcome to the state of mass paranoia. And we just can’t live like that – not as Christians, not as Muslims, not as Lebanese and we can’t allow laws that are based on our paranoia as Christians rule the entire country.

The Date of Lebanon’s 2013 Elections

The minister of interior affairs Marwan Charbel has just announced the date of Lebanon’s 2013 parliamentary elections.

We will be heading to the polls in order to perpetuate the current status quo on June 9th. The entire country will be voting on that day and the ministry is apparently done with election preps according to the 1960 law, which was employed in 2009: the law that everyone is against but no one is willing to change.

According to the 1960 law, each caza in Lebanon is its own electoral district.

However, the minister said that if Lebanon’s political parties agree on another electoral law, the date might be postponed by a few weeks. So for all matters and purposes, June 9th it is.

Political parties will start booking those plane tickets for our expats in 3…2….

Who Won the AUB Elections?

Picture via @WMNader

Back when I was an AUB student, I used to get carried away with the politics of it all. Voting for this party or that will help change things on a bigger scale – I was convinced with that. And I always sought to win, at least during my first two years there. March 14th called themselves Students At Work and they’ve been that way since. March 8th change their name every year. The independents are not really independent and they’ve also become divided. You should also never count out the Jordanians and Palestinians and their sectarian voting.

During my third and last year of undergrad there, I realized that voting for this party over the other – at least in university elections – was ridiculous. My goal as a student was not to take political stances that absolutely no one would care about post the regular 24 hours news cycle. I should be voting for someone who would really try to help me as a student in my university woes. So that last year at AUB, I voted for a mixed list that included a candidate from Amal, a candidate from the LF, a candidate from the PSP and an independent candidate. I had even left an empty spot for lack of “qualified” candidates.

One thing that can be said about my AUB years is that you could always tell who won. As they separated students in front of West Hall with two huge screens and about one hundred security men, you only needed to count the chants, exclude the political ones, to know who won which seat and then follow the winning group to Main Gate and Bliss Street.

But it has stopped being this simple. Every year since, everyone seems to have won AUB. For instance, yesterday’s headlines read:

LF: A tie at AUB with a win in the “fortress” of the FPM.

FPM: A win at AUB. 

And I asked myself the question: who won AUB?

Both sides will extrapolate the AUB elections onto parliamentary elections they both hope they’ll win. The FPM will read into this as them being a majority nationally. The LF will read into this as them being a majority on the Christian field. Both assertions are absolutely unfounded and ridiculous – but they will be made anyway. The students of both sides have already begun celebrating with Facebook statuses and celebratory tweets. We won, we won. All is well. Yay.

With rising tuition fees and a growing disconnect between students and administration, I can say without a doubt that who won AUB yesterday was not the students. Sure, it was a manifestation of free opinion, of democracy, of whatever rhetorical uselessness that gets you to sleep at night. And those students are entitled to their opinion, of course. Let them vote whichever way they want.

The problem is all of these students voting because of their political opinion don’t know exactly exactly how low the attendance in student representative council (SRC) meetings will be once those students they elected start “working” and how little they’ll actually do towards getting them that coveted unlimited printing or whatever promise they gave. And I knew this first hand back in my days: students win and eventually forget they did, until it’s time to mention it on their CVs. Some, from both sides of the political spectrum, rarely skip a meeting. And they try to change things. But they are always faced with an administration that counts on those who absolutely couldn’t care less outside winning and flexing their popularity muscles around.

As AUB students cast their vote against the weapons of Hezbollah or for the weapons of Hezbollah in that university ballot, they were all forgetting one key thing: how will their parents keep paying their rising tuition fees, along with all those university rising costs that are correlated with them? How do they feel about a lack of transparency with their professors and with their administration? How do they feel about AUB remaining the way it is for years and years without change?

Then next year will roll around. And all of these students will still be nagging about the same old things: where’s our unlimited printing? And then they’ll vote the same way again because a vote in AUB is one Hezbollah weapon removed or a firm message for the resistance.

You want to know who won AUB? It’s the status quo that both political camps in the country can erroneously analyze into a vote of trust from the youth that will most definitely be voting for them next year. But hey, it’s not like the “independent” alternative is much better either, with their hypocrisy, their under the table dealings with these political groups they’re challenging and lack of drive to work as well.

I guess we can really say it’s hopeless. The point is: voting for a political party is not a wrong thing to do… if you’re doing so for university reasons, not because some cosmic entity out there is out to get you. It is that courage of voting for someone who differs from you politically, simply because they are better qualified, that everyone seems to lack – and it’s easiest to vote as such in university elections, where your vote really doesn’t matter.

Why N7W is NOT a Scam

Despite many attempts to get my lovely Lebanese compatriotes off their high horse regarding many aspects of our beloved country, it seems I have fallen short somehow. The high-horse is too high for some people to actually see that not everything is out there to get them and not everything “good” that goes on with their country needs to be torn apart.

Let me start with one simple thing. Even IF N7W was a scam, it still doesn’t discredit the immense positive attributes this will bring Lebanon as a whole if Jeita ends up winning. Sure, it won’t end our national debt as some people suggested, nor will it be a solution to our political system. But come on, anyone comparing Jeita winning with a solution to the national debt is not only delusional, they also have some logical fuse in their brain short-circuiting. No offense that is.

The N7W campaign, which has been going on for almost four years now, will have millions upon millions of votes cast – and that was before SMS votes started. That was when people voted with emails and only those very enthusiastic voted with more than one email.

But I digress.

Recently, I’ve had the “pleasure” of reading an “interesting” post by my friend Gino Raidy who immediately stamped the word SCAM all over the N7W process, as well as a picture to go with it.

When I first clicked on the link to read Gino’s post, which was immediately picked up by BeirutSpring, I expected to read something interesting. I expected to find something new. Not something rehashed, over and over again, by the same people.

I shall be addressing every point Gino made in his article, with lesser emphasis on increasing font size and such.

Multiple Voting:

First, multiple votes is not a reason for the N7W competition to be a scam. Far from it, actually. Most competitions involving email voting let people vote once per email. And when it comes to SMS voting, you can vote more than once. You are allowed to vote for your favorites to win as many times as you want. Let’s look at two trivial examples. American Idol. You can vote either by telephone as much as you want, or you can text the number of your desired candidate as much as you want. The final tally of votes ends up nearing 500 million. I don’t see anyone screaming scam about that. Or is it only a scam when the theme of the vote is different?

A second example of competitions with voting are award shows such as the ACM, or Academy of Country Music Awards. If you thought American Idol was a “silly” example, at least the most prestigious country music award show is not. And for that awards show, the public gets to vote for the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a country artist. Yes, you guessed it. They can vote as many times as they want.

Voting Since 2009 2007:

We’ve been voting since 2007, not 2009. But we’ve been voting for different phases of the competition since 2007. Four years ago, the Cedar Forest in North Lebanon was nominated with Jeita. And we were voting for both sites. Then came a time where the nominated sites had to be cut down to about seventy and each country can only have one representative. So the Lebanese committee chose to have Jeita represent us onwards and pulled the plug on support for the Cedars. You might disagree with the decision. Some people argued that the Cedars are more symbolic of Lebanon. But in all fairness, Jeita has a much higher chance of winning. The second phase of the vote was to get all the sites that qualified into groups based on the nature of that site. Jeita was in the group of natural caves. And so, yet again, we voted for Jeita in its group and got it to qualify to the final stage of voting that is taking place today.

Phase voting is a natural thing in all competitions. It’s also a very natural thing in elections. I would give the American Idol example or any award show example again but let me illustrate this with something else. US presidential elections. It starts with democratic and republican primaries taking place for over a year all across the United States. Each party ends up voting for a nominee that represents it in the general elections. Then, those two candidates go head to head and one winner emerges. Another example is the French presidential elections. Each party goes through a series of voting to choose their nominee. Then all appointed nominees go through a first round of voting, by all the people of France, which ends up narrowing down the choice to only two candidates before the president is ultimately chosen in a final round of voting.

How is sequential voting since 2007 a mark of scam, I have no idea. You can check out the steps of the vote here.

UNESCO Does Not Support It

Fine, UNESCO does not support it. I fail to see how the N7W committee asking UNESCO to back it up and them refusing reflects negatively on N7W. After all, aren’t there many things that UNESCO did not support? Wasn’t it up until very recently (Monday to be exact) that Palestine was granted full membership to UNESCO?

Besides, UNESCO already has a list of World Heritage Sites, including the Lebanese Kadisha Valley, which is threatened to be removed off the list. Now I wonder, what good did the tag of “world heritage site” do the Kadisha Valley? How known is the valley even among Lebanese? I can’t begin to tell you the number of people I know who hadn’t heard of the valley until I mentioned it.

UNESCO might not support N7W but that doesn’t reflect negatively on the competition in any way whatsoever. It just means that. A committee where political play is key decided not to back up a committee where political play is to a lesser key. Simple as that.

The Maldives Withdrew Themselves From The Competition:

Yes, I have read that same article, back from May 2011, that the Maldives decided to withdraw themselves from the vote because the N7W organization asked for copious amount of money and financial engagements. Simple question, which I will illustrate with a breathtaking image of the Maldives:

Surprise, surprise… The Maldives are still in the competition. Their government pulled off support for the participation? It’s hard for me to believe that a flimsy Switzerland-based organization can overtake a government. I’m just saying.

Besides, to be eligible to be part of the final 28 participants, no fee had to be paid. N7W is, at the end of the day, a non-profit organization. But to be non-profit, you need to balance out your expenses. In order to do so, they offered sponsorship rights, which are elective, for the final phase of the vote, in return for a certain amount of money. In Lebanon’s case, according to officials from the Jeita Grotto committee from whom I got a statement, no such fees were paid. Jeita doesn’t have sponsors.

But let me ask this: is $500,000 too much to be paid for the amount of advertisement they’re getting from being part of this competition? Could Jeita have gotten the exposure it’s getting had it not been competing? I hardly think so. Odds are Jeita would have forever remained a landmark visited mostly by the Lebanese and a fraction of the couple million tourists we get every year.

More Tourists:

Yes, more tourists. There’s no way in hell having millions of millions of people (multiple voting included) visiting a website and voting for seven different sites without it sparking at least a curiosity to visit, with many of those acting out of it and actually visiting. Take me for an example, I really want to visit the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, a landmark I did not know existed before the competition. Say I do go to Ireland. I won’t end up visiting the Cliffs of Moher and going back to Lebanon. I’ll stay there for at least a week, visiting other landmarks and helping out their local economy.

To assume that “NO ONE” is falling for this is absurd. Tourists who are interested in visiting a country will search for related info about their country. If Jeita ends up winning, odds are that will be one of the main points they will encounter in their search and they will most definitely want to visit it if they end up coming to Lebanon. At the end of the day, Lebanon is a country driven first and foremost by its tourism sector, which is helped immensely by such exposure. To assume that such exposure is nonsensical would be nonsensical in itself.

National Pride:

Yes, national pride. Shouting national pride from the rooftops that is. And yes, that does make me – or any other Lebanese – proud of what we have accomplished with the Jeita vote, how for one rare time in our history we’ve forgotten our differences – at least for a minute – and all voted for one common thing. Yes, that is something that makes me proud. It makes me proud to see a landmark from my country be part of a competition on such an international level, just as I would be proud to see, for example, Riyad Salameh picking up an award for excellent skills in managing our Central Bank and helped us weather the international financial meltdown. It makes me proud to see some great Lebanese icon, like Fairuz, being honored at an international level – regardless of whether I think she needs that honor or not. Sure, we need to preserve our natural sites. We need better laws. We need to take better care of our country. But I fail to see how all of that is logically deterring us from supporting the Jeita vote in any way?

At the end of the day, scam or not, official or not, N7W is doing most of the countries that have reached the finals a huge favor. When I look at their live voting map and I see someone from Vietnam or Chinese Taipei voting for Jeita, it makes me happy. Not because they voted for Jeita, but because someone, somewhere, now knows that there’s a country called Lebanon in the Middle East with a breathtaking landmark that, win or no win, is now known.

It’s clear though that some Lebanese need to stop it with the conspiracy theories and relax. If you don’t find enough reasons to vote for Jeita, then don’t vote. Don’t berate those who find the reasons to. And also, fellow Lebanese, you shouldn’t be angry people are urging everyone to vote. It will all end in nine days.

13 Reasons to Vote for Jeita Grotto

You know what?

Lebanese suck.

We really do. We need to bash EVERYTHING. There’s NOTHING that can take place in the country that is not frowned upon or looked down upon or criticized.

The latest? People are criticizing the whole “Vote for Jeita” campaign, with about 3 weeks left on the vote. They can’t even accept that the competition is NOT scam.

“Jeita doesn’t deserve to be a wonder,” is one of the things I’ve heard. “Why charge for the SMS to vote?” is another. “If the government wants Jeita to win, why don’t they vote?”

All of us need to want Jeita to win. Not the government. Not anyone else. We, as a people, should be proud that our country has something that has gained enough international recognition from international panels that judged Jeita as being worthy of being one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.

Regarding the SMS vote: The New 7 Wonders committee DOES NOT accept free SMS votes.  The 10 cents charge we pay is one enforced by the New 7 Wonders committee. The government is not charging anything. I’ve voted 35 times so far and it barely caused a dent in my prepaid credit. And you know what, even if it did – I don’t care.

I recently stumbled on this blog post where they make out the vote for Jeita as some form of “national chauvinism,” saying that we need to study the other 27 finalists in order to make an informative vote. On that same post, a comment by “Noel” states that our “need” to have Jeita win is because we, as Lebanese, need “validation from some outside authority.”

Sure, our country is messed up in many ways. But I believe we have a lot to be grateful for. However, can we  – FOR ONCE – stop being so pessimistic about everything that has to do with Lebanon? Can we just chill for a bit, sit back, relax and not overanalyze everything? Can we seriously cut it with the know-it-all attitudes and for once feel good that Lebanon is actually getting a reputation for itself apart from the whole war-torn country now sex-capital of the Middle East?

But here are 13 reasons why we all need to vote for this wonder:

1) Jeita is spectacular

2) Jeita is wonderful

3) Jeita is grandiose

4) Jeita is brilliant

5) Jeita is gorgeous

6) Jeita is poetic

7) Jeita is angelic

8) Jeita is radiant

9) Jeita is exquisite

10) Jeita is majestic

11) Jeita is sublime

12) Jeita is elegant

13) Jeita makes me proud to be Lebanese. And so should you!

Also quick info for you out there:

Jeita is the only limestone cave among the 28 nominees. Most of Jeita cannot be accessed by visitors. For instance, the lower cave is over 6000 meters long, only 500 of which are accessible to visitors via boats. Moreover, the upper cave is over 2000 meters in length, only 750 of which are accessible to the public. Jeita also has the world’s longest stalactite at 8.2m high.

And for those of want to vote, you can go to this link or check out this picture:

And for those outside Lebanon, you can vote via the website: http://www.new7wonders.com or text Jeita to your country’s corresponding number:

Also check out this ad featuring opposing Lebanese politicians, beauty queens and actors to promote the vote:

Back in 2008, the US was invited to Barrack the vote. This is our time to rock the vote, Lebanese-style.

Come on Lebanon: Vote For Jeita Grotto for the New 7 Wonders of Nature

The final stretch of the vote is here: we have one month left.

I know we’ve all gotten tired of it but we can’t let down now. We’re almost there.

And I have good news for you.

We can now vote via text – no more those long registration steps and choosing six other wonders we don’t really care about.  And no, it’s not even an expensive text. Shocker, I know. We must really want to win for not using this to make money. It’s simply 10 cents per vote.

What to do?

Send the word “Jeita” to 1070. You’ll receive a reply acknowledging your vote.

So vote. And vote frequently.

And for those who are always short on credit, you can always use your many emails to make accounts on: http://www.new7wonders.com