Photoshoot Woes of Lebanese Politicians

Imagine the following scenario: we have an elections date and a law on which those elections will take place. All of our politicians who want to run for parliament are trying to get their beauty sleep before their major pre-electoral photo-shoot. Then, suddenly, they wake up at night with one thought on their mind.

Boutros Harb

  • Boutros Harb: Do I have any white hair? DO I?

Antoine Zahra

  • Antoine Zahra: Damn it, I have to smile. I’ll look constipated one more time.

Gebran Bassil -

  • Gebran Bassil: How do I turn this into a press conference?
  • Whoever’s running with Gebran Bassil: [sleep apnea]

Samer Saadeh

  • Samer Saade: Conservative for Tripoli? Or more liberal pose for Batroun?

Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati talks at the Grand Serail, the government headquarters in Beirut

  • Najib Mikati: to point or not to point at all the money that I’m going to use?

Michel Aoun

  • Michel Aoun: WHOEVER’S GOING TO TAKE MY PICTURE WANTS TO ASSASSINATE ME.

Samir-Geagea

  • Samir Geagea: flower or deflower, flower or deflower, flower or deflower? Deflower! Certainly, certainly, certainly.

gilberte-zouein

  • Gilberte Zouein: They’re blowing me, right? My hair, I mean.

Naamtallah Abi Nasr

  • Neamtallah Abi Nasr: I should kiss up to Michel Aoun in my picture right? Bring me his shoes!

Saad Hariri

  • Saad Hariri: Hmm, Paris Eiffel in the background?

Samy Gemayel

  • Samy Gemayel: I need to make my poster better representative of minorities. Is there any unheard of minority in this country?

Ahmad el Assir

  • Ahmad el Assir: I must connect to the non-extremists. I should probably weave my beard.

M

  • Myriam Klink: Antawwww. *chuckles*

sethrida-geagea-

  • Sethrida Geagea: I’m hot.

walid-jumblatt

  • Walid Jumblat: Aley and Chouf are mine. Mine. MINE!

Ziad Baroud

  • Ziad Baroud: Good thing the picture is a portrait.

Oh look at all those people I just offended. But wait – one more politician:

Amir Fakhreddine

The Lebanese Electoral Law No One’s Talking About

Orthodox law here, orthodox law there. It’s all about the Orthodox law and the myth of its improvement of “representation.”
In the very narrow sense of things, the Orthodox Law makes sense given what the country is all about. Those who suddenly woke up and panicked about the law being sectarian: where were you living exactly?
You may not like what that sense is and you may be absolutely in love with it. In broader terms, however, the Orthodox Law is a disaster – not because it “improves” Christian power as some claim it will, but because it doesn’t really tackle the foundation of the issue which necessitated such a law to be present in the first place.

The problem with Christian representation in its current form in parliament is the following: democracy.

Let’s examine 3 different scenarios.

Caza A: has 40,000 Shiite voter and 60,000 Christian voter. Christians usually vote 50-50 between both politics camps. Shiite voters vote with about 90% for one camp. Half of the Christian voters feel their voice has been stripped.

Caza B: has 40,000 Druze voter and 60,000 Christian voter. Christian votes get divided almost equally. Druze votes are beyond one-sided. The Druze voter has now chosen for the Christian voter.

Caza C: 40,000 Sunni voter and 60,000 Christian voter. Repeat same scenario as in A or B.

The above scenarios are in play in Lebanon today in several districts of which I note:
– Aley: has 50,000 Christian voter who, the propaganda, goes cannot choose their own MP because of the Druze majority.
– Jbeil: has 10,000 Shiite voter whose votes make the election result look very lopsided while it isn’t.
– Zahle: A sizable Sunni population was key in the victory of whoever won in that area.

Don’t worry, I am not defending the Orthodox Law’s premise. The above examples are to illustrate the following:
The “problem” in Lebanon today isn’t that Christians are too few demographically or that they are given a greater voice in parliament than they should have or that their only solution is for a separation from everyone else in choosing their representatives. It is that there is a true democratic condition among Christian communities which is beyond nonexistent in all of the other sects in the country – and any electoral law which doesn’t lead to the growth of an opposition to the key leaders of each of the landslide-sects is not a law which can actually be used for a sustainable development of Lebanese society. This is nowhere near guaranteed with a law such as the Orthodox Law or any of the laws currently discussed.

Another major shortcoming that politicians seem to ignore in order to communicate the rhetoric of “defending Christian rights” is the following: how is it logical and acceptable for a Maronite voter in Akkar to vote for a Maronite MP in the deep end of the South? How can they fathom it is a “right” for the Sunni in Saida to vote for the Sunni MP of Tripoli? How is it logical for the Shiite in Tyre to vote for the Shiite MP of Hermel?

But there is a law that takes in consideration both regions and proper representation. It is a law which is not even discussed around the round tables of our MPs as they fight over their prospective seats in parliament: individual districts (El daweyer l fardiye): voters can vote for one MP in a small district of a few thousand voters.

To illustrate this, let’s examine a real life example: my district, Batroun, which has only two MPs – one of the fewest per district in Lebanon.

If my entire district is considered as only one electoral circumscription, the results are pretty well known: the current MPs will be re-elected. The votes coming in from the Mountains overtake whatever votes are coming from the Coast. If any third party candidate wants to run, they have to communicate their message – or try to at least – to over 60,000 voter. And parties rule by having a sizable base spread across the district which can vote for whichever candidate their party endorses.
Now with individual electoral districts, my district is split in half corresponding to each of the MPs it gets. The lesser number of voters per district means higher effect for those whose votes bordered on the irrelevant in a bigger district: the 1000 Sunni vote of Rasenhash and the 500 Shiite vote in Rashkida become something that whoever wants to run needs to win in order to have a chance at winning. By lessening the number of potential voters, any third party candidate will also have a higher chance at communicating their message to the voters. Instead of having an Antoine Zahra-Gebran Bassil face off in the coast and a Boutros Harb-Whatever face off in the mountains, we could have a three-way race with a viable alternative candidate. Said candidate may not win but at least people would have another option to vote for and express their disappointment with the current political establishment.
By decreasing the overall number of voters per circumscription, the bulk-voting effect of political parties is also decreased.

This electoral model, when applied to bigger and more diverse districts, leads to a more substantial weight for minorities, less effect for political parties and a room for centrists to take office.

Individual electoral districts, however, will never see the light of the day for the following reasons:
– It decreases Hezbollah’s influence by cutting his bases into pieces.
– Can you imagine the seizure Jumblat will have if this law is proposed and he won’t be able to get every single Druze seat in the Lebanese Republic? The only law he accepts is the law everyone refuses. They call this in Lebanese slang: “7ajar el dema.”
– The Future Movement will also lose a few MPs because of a decreased effect of the voters which constitute his base and an increased power of those who don’t.

The individual districts electoral law means that the current political establishment receives a drastic makeover. Do any of our politicians want this? Absolutely not. They preach about change, reform, proper representation. But anything that doesn’t bring them back to power with absolute certainty isn’t something they can accept.

True representation isn’t, in my opinion, sects voting for themselves and themselves alone. If Maronites vote for Maronites alone, how can we expect to accept Sunnis and Shiites voting for the president? If Sunnis vote for Sunnis alone, then why should the Christians and Shiites vote for the prime minister? If Shiites vote for Shiites alone, why should Christians and Sunnis vote for the speaker of the house?

A Maronite MP isn’t an MP that represents Maronites only. He is an MP who represents the voters of the district he comes from in order to transcend that and become a representative of the entire country and as such, it is shameful that an MP of a given sect who has to represent everyone has no chance of getting the votes of the other part of the country which he/she should represent.

Our votes as Lebanese of different sects are not and should not be confined to the sects that we are born into. It is saddening that some people want to summarize us with whatever’s written in the sect box of our IDs and are beyond convinced with this.

I refuse to be just another Maronite number.

Roum Catholic? – The First 2013 Elections Ad

The ministry of internal affairs has started its preparatory campaign for the 2013 elections by telling people to check their name on the voters lists before March 10th, which I told you to do a few days ago (link).

As part of its attempt at getting the Lebanese voter to feel more involved, especially that it pertains to bureaucratic stuff most people don’t want to feel concerned with, they have launched the following funny ad, which plays on the different types of Lebanese people who might be “violated” by errors on the lists:

The last 2 seconds of the ad are beyond hilarious, which is probably what might get some people to go to this website (link) and check if their name is correctly listed.

And if you thought the Roum Catholic part is far-fetched, just check out this screenshot (link) from the lists of my hometown.

PS: They are brothers.

The Best Way To Start an Electoral Campaign in Lebanon

It was May 2012 and I had a death in the family. This necessitates being in church for a lot of time which I normally spend just being “there,” not really useful and not able to leave because that’s a big no-no.

Part of Christian funeral “traditions” is the family of the deceased getting flower arrangements that will be put on the grave once the funeral and the burial are done. If the deceased is part of a bigger establishment, they get a flower arrangement from there as well. If the deceased was active politically or have politically active offspring, they get a flower arrangement from their corresponding politician of choice.

And sometimes, there are flower arrangements which leave you baffled as to who that person is. As I said, it was May 2012 and as I screened the flowers, I noticed a name that didn’t seem familiar to me: Sandrella Merhej.

I asked around and almost no one knew who she was – until I ran into a staunch FPM supporter who said the main attorney was on Fayez Karam’s treason case.

Fast forward a few months later, to December 2012, and another death in the family. And there it was – the infamous Flower Cross:

Sandrella Merhej FPM Batroun Elections 2013

 

The key difference between December and May 2012 is that the arrangement which everyone found odd and strange back then now made sense. She wasn’t a stranger anymore – she had become a household name. She didn’t use social media. She didn’t inundate everyone with ads.

It only involved a bouquet. Sandrella Merhej had actively kickstarted an electoral campaign with her doing absolutely nothing.

 

She doesn’t have to be present at the funeral as many other politicians do. I bet she doesn’t even know who the people who died are. Odds are she has some sort of deal with a local florist to send an arrangement to every single funeral in the whole district. As a result, very few are those across Batroun today who don’t know who Sandrella Merhej is.

They have no idea where she stands on some key issues. They probably don’t know yet where she stands politically. But she’s in a much better place, reputation-wise, than where Gebran Bassil and Antoine Zahra were in 2005, when they were both running for the first time.

People love it when politicians, or politician-wannabes in Sandrella Merhej’s case, acknowledge their sadness during funerals. It makes them feel relevant and actually gets them to think that politician truly cares about their strife and that he – or she – are not just there for electoral purposes.

I personally couldn’t care less if a politician attends a funeral of a person I cherish or not. But I’m the exception. In fact, many people in Batroun hold it against Antoine Zahra that he doesn’t do funerals. Many won’t be voting for him precisely because of that. I find it sad that voting – or not voting for someone – revolves around them making the time to attend something they’re not even supposed to attend when there are so many other things that could stop them from voting for a politician.

But I digress.

Today, Sandrella Merhej’s name is a frontrunner to be on the FPM ticket with Gebran Bassil. She fits the bill – she comes from one of Batroun’s towns at a higher altitude – the poor thing has to go against Boutros Harb. A lot of people now know who she is. And by the looks of it, she is a staunch FPM member. A three in one combo? Apparently so. Of course, her nomination is not set in stone. There are other names being jumped around but out of them all, she might be the most interesting: a newcomer, who was relatively unknown less than a few months ago. Now everyone knows her name.

Whether she will win or not, however, is an entirely different story. Entre nous, the chance of her ticket winning in my district is dismal at best – almost nonexistent actually.

Check Out Lebanon’s 2013 Voters Lists

We may not have an electoral law yet but our elections will happen regardless. And despite many of us saying that we won’t vote now, come June (or July if there’s a slight delay), we will all be heading to the polls to cast our votes.

The ministry of interior affairs has just published the lists of the 2013 elections eligible voters (لوائح الشطب ) and speaking from experience, it’s always better to check if your name is there or if there’s any mistake in advance in order to avoid any surprises come election day.

1 – Go to the website (here). It doesn’t support firefox so make sure you’re using Safari or Chrome or – God forbid – Internet Explorer.

2 – Go to the “voters list” section (القوائم الإنتخابية) and choose your mohafazat.

Lebanon Voting Elections 2013 - 23 – Next, choose your district. In my case, it’s Batroun.

Lebanon Voting Elections 2013 - 34 – Choose your village. Ebrine, in my case.

Lebanon Voting Elections 2013 - 45 – Choose your gender and sect.

My town has Sunnis. Unacceptable.

My town has Sunnis. Unacceptable.

The list corresponding to the sect, gender and town you chose will then be made available. If you are an expat who registered at an embassy, your name will have a remark indicating that you have chosen to vote abroad:

Lebanon Voting Elections 2013 - 6

If you’re not an expat, locate your name and make sure it doesn’t have any mistakes in your birthdate, father’s name, mother’s name or even your own name:

There's me

There’s me

I personally had a problem with my mother’s name on the list which missed one dot, making her name totally different. I spoke to the mokhtar about it but he dismissed it as irrelevant and didn’t fix it. Remembering a story when a friend of mine was not allowed to vote by some political observers because his mother’s name was wrong on the list, I didn’t let it go and while giving fingerprints for my new ID at my district’s Serail, I asked to have my mother’s name fixed and it was.

Don’t worry, fixing anything wrong with your registration is not a hassle. Just have some form of identification with you, an ID or a recent ikhraj eid, and head to your nearest “ma2mour l noufous” and they’ll be more than glad to sort things out.

As an example, a relative whose name appears on the list for the first time this year has her mother’s name all wrong. If she hadn’t checked the list, she wouldn’t have known that and she would have been not allowed to vote come election day. Another friend, who’s my age, doesn’t even have his name registered yet. Seeing as the lists are readily available online till March, it is our duty to make sure that human errors do not keep us from voting.

Insulting May Chidiac

To say these people are retarded would be an insult to those who were born with mental deficits.

To say they are worthless bitches would be an insult to all female dogs everywhere, including those ugly Chihuahuas.

To say these people have half of their brain missing would be an insult to all types of brain pathological atrophies.

To say these people are scum would be an insult to garbage.

The people I’m referring to are those who found it nice and interesting to insult May Chidiac. Why? Because she was considering running for parliamentary elections in 2013. Where? In the “stronghold” of their leader, Keserwan.

I was under the impression Keserwan wasn’t the property of any political leader, let alone someone who originally hails from Beirut’s Southern suburb. But I may be mistaken. After all, to them I’m a Maronite from Batroun who’s just angry his Maronitism is of a second degree compared to our neighbor to the South.

 

(Pictures)

I have something to say to these people who find it okay to call a person who survived an assassination attempt, losing half her limbs in the process, a half human. I don’t wish these people ill – i.e. I don’t wish upon them a car accident that would mutilate them and get them into a course of physiotherapy and surgical operations that would take more than 7 years. What I do wish for these people is a brain with the mental capacities of a ten year old. Maybe then they can actually know the severity of the garbage they’re uttering.

Nicóle Bekhaazi – walaw at the Ó? – Elias Aoun, Ghosn Joe, the 69 people who “liked” Nicóle’s picture and the countless others who agree with them and with whom we’ve all had fights about this same issue are irrelevant. And I wish they  hadn’t gotten the attention they so desperately wanted. But they did. And here I am trashing them. Frankly, I felt like insulting them. I felt like giving them a taste of their own medicine. I felt like attempting to sink down to their level for a moment but I still have a long way to go to reach their low.

Why do I want to do that? Because people like them are not people you can talk to. They are people you talk down to.

On the other hand, there’s the semi-official stance of the Lebanese Forces via their Facebook page. This stance basically called all Aounists stupid.

And this is also beyond unacceptable. You do not call people who differ from you politically stupid just because you don’t agree with them – except the people insulting May Chidiac. Not all Aounists are like that – regardless of whether you agree or not with their politics. And this coming from the Facebook page of one of Lebanon’s leading parties makes this a transgression that cannot be ignored.

The Lebanese Forces need better moderators for their Facebook page: ones that know right from wrong and what can be posted on such pages and what cannot. They could have stopped at saying “May Chidiac is a line you cannot cross.” And it would have had the desired impact.

On the other hand, the insults also made it to LBC news. And I find it very professional of them that they discussed this knowing that she doesn’t work with them anymore.

Bel 3arabe l mshabra7, khara ha heik 3alam. Tfeh.