Elections in Lebanon: Mapping Alliances and Managing Expectations

Elections in Lebanon: Mapping Alliances and Managing Expectations

 

On Monday, April 27, 2009, Safadi Foundation USA hosted a briefing in cooperation with the Middle East Program of the Woodrow Wilson Center, entitled “Elections in Lebanon: Mapping Alliances and Managing Expectations.”

The panel was moderated by Haleh Esfandiari, Director of the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center. Panelists included: Ambassador C. David Welch, Former Assistant Secretary of State, Near Eastern Affairs; Paul Salem, Director, Middle East Center, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; andKarim Sadjadpour, Associate, Middle East Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The discussion focused on the significance of the upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for June 7, 2009. The panelists confirmed that while the upcoming elections are important as far as Lebanon’s political future is concerned and have certain regional implications, they will not bring about widespread unexpected changes in Lebanon’s political representation and national identity. As Ambassador Welch noted, “This election is going to be decided in a few key districts…in particular the Christian districts.”

The widespread attention on the elections from the United States and the international community is critical to express support for both reform in Lebanon and for civil society’s important role in the democratic process. Paul Salem commented “…that already there is some change in the electoral system.But also, that if these elections, the reforms, the Minister of Interior and the autonomous commission established to oversee the campaigning do well, it will open the door for further discussion of electoral reform in Lebanon.”Specifically, the success of a continued reform effort in Lebanon will break the limitations imposed by the traditional clientalistic structure and introduce new possibilities.

For more please click on the following link to view the event in its entirety:
http://www.wilsoncenter.org/index.cfm?topic_id=1426&fuseaction=topics.event_summary&event_id=518980

You can also view the reaction by the Beirut based Daily Star at:http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=1&categ_id=2&article_id=101432

Highlighted Quotes:

“The U.S. really has a policy that can be described as pro-Lebanon; it is not associated or derived from any other regional policy…the new Administration does recognize Lebanon as unique…it does see it as a priority to be protected and advanced and that it will put it in a key position in this new pattern of regional engagement that this new Administration appears to be offering.” C. David Welch

“This election also contains the beginnings of reform. It’s an election law that was put in place after the National Commission was formed. Some of the reforms that were suggested were adopted in parliament. These reforms are the first reforms introduced into the Lebanese election law since 1927.” Paul Salem

“There shouldn’t be a Sunni policy in Lebanon, a Shi’ite policy, a Druze policy…it should be a pro-Lebanon policy.” Karim Sadjadpour