The phone rang. It was a number I didn’t recognize. Hoping it wasn’t the hospital calling me for a patient emergency, I answered to someone asking me if I was Mr. Fares and if I didn’t mind answering a few questions about our upcoming presidential elections.
– Me: Okay, I’ll answer your questions
– Operator: What’s your name?
– Me: Elie.
– Operator: How old are you?
– Me: 24.
– Operator: Where do you vote?
– Me: Batroun.
– Operator: What’s your sect?
– Me: I don’t practice.
– Operator: That’s besides the question, what do you have written on your ID?
– Me: IDs don’t have sects.
– Operator: On your “Ikhraj Eid?”
– Me: I’ve had it removed.
– Operator: We can play this game for a while. Your name is Elie. I’m assuming you were born Maronite?
– Me: Yeah…
– Operator: Do you want a strong or consensual president?
– Me: Hmm, strong?
– Operator: Out of these four names, then, who do you want as your next president: Samir Geagea, Michel Aoun, Amin Gemayel and Sleiman Frangieh?
– Me: Those are your picks for strong president?
– Operator: Yes, you have to choose one.
– Me: How about none? Each one is worse than the next. Can I get that option?
– Operator: Certainly, I’ll just move you to the consensual candidate category. Which of these do you prefer? *blabs a series of names each more irrelevant than the next.*
– Me: Either Demianos Qattar or Ziad Baroud.
– Operator: Ok, I’ll list you next to Demianos Qattar. Why didn’t you go with the other four?
– Me: Because they’re not exactly “build-me-a-hopeful-future” material?
– Operator: Alright. Do you belong to any political party?
– Me: I did.
– Operator: Which one?
– Me: The Lebanese Forces.
– Operator: And what’s your level of education? Are you illiterate, a brevet holder, high school degree holder, university degree holder or postgraduate studies degree holder?
– Me: I’m a medical student.
– Operator: Oh doctor! Sorry for taking your time. I don’t have any more questions. Sorry for bothering you.
– Me: It’s okay.
I don’t know where my answers will end up or if the woman on the other end of the line thinks of me as some pompous political hipster who doesn’t want to be labeled, but I seriously don’t get the point of polling companies in a country as politically dysfunctional as Lebanon. Couldn’t the money invested in polls be spent elsewhere?
In decent countries where actual electoral campaigns are waged, polls are employed to ascertain the effect that some items have on voters, to assess the chances of certain candidates compared to others and to test the efficacy of a campaign. Which of those do we have here?
We haven’t been to any major polling in about 5 years. We can’t vote for a president to begin with. We have no choice over who ends up as prime minister. And we are given the illusion that our opinion matters.
When their round of calls end, the company at hand will end up with a nice study about how each Lebanese sect breaks down in support for Lebanese presidential candidates. Those who get a bigger portion, or in other words those who paid for the poll to be done, will flaunt these results left and right.
Hey! Look! The people chose me! I’m the rightful heir of the Baabda throne!
But the people can’t choose. The people were not even allowed last year to choose which MPs get to choose this year’s president. And those polls force you to fit in every preset category of Lebanese citizenship to have a valid opinion. There’s no category for people who refuse to declare their sect. There’s no category for people who want a strong president outside of the Fantastic Maronite Four. Even our polls, simple and silly and irrelevant as they may be, are a redundancy of our political status quo.
I wish I had hung up.