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February 24, 2005

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What's a ley-line? "Assissination" I get.

Good post, btw.

"What's a ley-line?"

It's a new Hawaiian-Country dance.

Seriously, good post, von.

Google ley-line -- you'll get examples. (Essentially, its a mystical line of energy, generally used to refer to ancient Druidic or Celtic sites. Stonehenge, fo instance, is reputed to stand on a ley line.) I'm slightly abusing the term by suggesting that it cannotes a conduit of vicarious control,* but forgive me that rhetorical exceess.

*Say that three times fast.

Oh, and thanks for the compliments.

"Hariri's death significantly strengthened the hand of Syria's Lebanese allies, and left the opposition without a high-visibility spokesperson."

I don't know about that. I mean, did you see those crowds? Syrians getting attacked and fleeing across the border? I think that the opposition is much stronger even with Hariri's death. The question in my mind is, what will Syria do? Will they try to rig another set of elections? The current PM has offered to step down provided X, Y, and Z. The two major Shi'a groups seem to be on the fence or leaning towards Syria. But there's no denying that there was is a lot of anti-Syrian sentiment in Lebanon right now, and the US, France, and the UN are all more or less demanding that Syria meet its obligations under 1559.

I don't know about that. I mean, did you see those crowds? Syrians getting attacked and fleeing across the border?

I agree that there's anger at Syrian, but I'm not convinced that it translates into political action. Syria is hated in Lebanon, it's true, but even the most strident anti-Syrian groups (e.g., ex-pat Lebanese Christians) credit Syria for restoring stability.

But, hey, this crystal ball stuff is hard work. My sense is that Syria ends up stronger in the parliamentary elections, all things being equal, because the Lebanese ultimately prefer the status quo -- particularly when the alternative is a largely unknown or untested opposition. (There's a Druze politician who's fairly well-regarded, but the Druze make up about 5% of Lebanon's population and he's considered virtually unelectable.) Alternatively, the voting could splinter along ethnic lines, which also suits Syria.

Hariri, unique among opposition figures, was both a known opposition figure and the former Lebanese Premier -- which is why he presented such a threat to Syrian power in the region.

Since I know next to nothing about Lebanon (except trivial facts like that it is the only country that banned 'The DaVinci Code', on instignation of the Catholics) I am trying to read up.
Via the comments on Praktike's blog I landed on Jonathan's blog, with a clear description of the electorial system in Lebanon.

Via the comments on Praktike's blog I landed on Jonathan's blog, with a clear description of the electorial system in Lebanon.

That's an excellent primer. I'll be following Jonathan's blog as well. Thanks.

Thanks, von & marbel: the HeadHeeb's post on Lebanese politics was certainly an eye-opener. If this is even a remotely accurate rundown of how the country's electoral processes work, it is, IMO, a safe bet that:
1. Lebanese politics is more complex than we imagine
2. Lebanese politics is more complex than we can imagine.
3. The situation in Lebanon is a vastly more diffcult situation to deal with than anyone would realize, if they only got their information on the subject from the MSM, the Adminstration, or semi-informed bloggers.
And 4. We (the US - and France as well) ought to be really careful as to how much meeddling we really want to get into in a place like this. Really.

It is definitely some complex stuff, and I don't (usually) pretend to understand it all. This is also a helpful resource, which I just discovered.

3. The situation in Lebanon is a vastly more diffcult situation to deal with than anyone would realize, if they only got their information on the subject from the MSM, the Adminstration, or semi-informed bloggers.

That is absolutely correct. If Middle Eastern politics is a 1-10 continuum where 1 is very, very complex and 10 is so-complex-that-it-simply-cannot-be-understood-or-explained, Lebanon is a 15.

(IOW, we need to react very carefully to the May elections.)

I'm not close to understanding Lebanese politics (I know this poli sci grad student who arrived in 2000 or so to work on a thesis developing a model to predict allocation of services in ethnically-divided countries, using Lebanon as a model. She's still here. The thesis, it is nowhere near done.), but I agree with praktike on the impact of Hariri's death on the elections (if they're held fairly).

You have to be here to get a sense of it. There are Hariri posters EVERYWHERE, big and small. There are little shrines to him all over town, just a Hariri poster with some candles burning in front of them. Including a fair number of Virgin Mary or Jesus or St. Charbel candles. There are posters up saying "May he burn in hell who burned the heart of our nation" (rough translation). People are motivated, I mean really motivated, and the opposition will certainly find someone to carry Hariri's mantle, even if only for one election, even if it his son or widow playing Cory Aquino.

Tom --

But do you (or Praktike) get the sense that Hariri is anything more than a symbol? I.e., when it come time to vote, who will carry his mantle? Who will all these folks vote for? That's the crucial issue to my mind (and the point of my post) -- to which I haven't seen an answer.

It's still a few months until the elections, but Hariri's family has been pretty clear about associating themselves with the opposition. I'd expect that they will pretty soon endorse someone if his son decides not to stand. (Only one of his sons really speaks very good Arabic, the others having mostly been brought up in France.) Which I would expect would have a significant impact on the voters, at least in this election cycle, although whatever coalition comes together might have a hard time staying together. (See also: Pim Fortuyn).

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