June 7, 2009

Waiting to Exhale

President Obama is breathing a sigh of relief as Lebanon's election results are counted. In a record turnout, the Western-backed March 14th coalition has won at least 67 of 128 seats for a 52% majority. Another 3 seats are expected, leaving the original balance as it is - 71 to 57.

Hezbollah has conceded defeat while March 14th supporters celebrate what they consider Lebanon's first free election in decades.

Lebanon is full of hybrid winner/losers. The March 14th coalition retained its advantage but failed to pull away from Hezbollah. Israel dodged a bullet but could still battle Hezbollah at any moment. America is relieved that it won't have to wrestle over assistance, but made strategic errors with visiting officials.

Hezbollah failed to increase its seats but also held on to the power it has. Though failing to step forward, Hezbollah hasn't suffered a setback. Iran and Syria maintain a powerful proxy even though their interference likely weakened Hezbollah's chances with moderates and swing voters, and also scared away votes of their Christian ally, Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement (FPM).

For it's part Hezbollah is saying the right things. Firmly entrenched in Lebanese politics, the final phase of guerrilla warfare, Nasrallah has no reason to create unrest, not until his army is challenged militarily. Hezbollah might lose its veto, but Israel is not going to get its wish; the Lebanese army will not disarm Hezbollah.

Hassan Fadlallah, a Hezbollah MP, told the AFP, "What matters to us now is that Lebanon turns a new page, one based on partnership, co-operation and understanding... Whoever wants political stability, the preservation of national unity and the resurrection of Lebanon will find no choice but to accept the principle of consensus."

Michel de Chadarevian, from the FPM said, "Even if we had won we would have formed a national unity government.

The Lebanese people have been allowed to speak, even if they're backed by foreign shadows. Sounds like a good day in Lebanon, though failing to move either way means that Lebanon will likely remain deadlocked and explosive. The current is swift and Lebanon's gone. The world has already shifted its attention to Iran's presidential election on June 12th.

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