While the United States, Britain and other imperialist powers have strained every nerve to brand the free and fair presidential election in Iran as rigged and fraudulent, and to use all manner of extra-legal means to overturn the result, they have hailed as a great victory the 7 June election in Lebanon, which, despite the fact that the anti-imperialist coalition led by Hizbollah gained a clear majority of votes, returned a pro-imperialist parliamentary majority.
As the Economist explained: “Although some 54% of voters backed the opposition, they did so in places where more votes produced fewer MPs. Those who voted against the resistance tended to vote in districts with proportionally more weight….
“March 14th’s [the name for the pro-imperialist coalition] capture of 71 out of 128 parliamentary seats also underlined the flaws in Lebanon’s cumbersome democracy, which reserves seats for each of 16 recognised religious sects according to long-outdated census weightings, under a formula that splits parliament equally between Christians and Muslims. Taking advantage of the imbalance between the size of the constituencies and the number of their MPs, the alliance gained a critical advantage from the massive turnout by Sunni voters in Christian districts, reflecting both demographic shifts and the financial clout of the Sunni political machine. The opposition’s losses were mostly suffered by independent politicians allied to them. Hizbollah, which in the past has shied away from a deep exposure to what it calls ‘dirty’ electoral politics, ran only 11 candidates, all of whom won handily” (‘Lebanon’s election. A win for the West’, 11 June 2009).
This parliamentary system, representing a deeply flawed democracy, is based on the Taif Accords, hammered out by Saudi Arabia and Syria to end the Lebanese civil war some 20 years ago. According to these accords, parliamentary seats are apportioned as follows: 27 seats (Sunnis), 27 seats (Shias), 34 seats (Maronite Christians), and the remainder divided between Druze, Greek Orthodox, Alawites and others.
Further, the prime minister must be a Sunni, the president a Maronite, and the parliamentary speaker a Shia.
Despite the fact that the bloc winning a clear majority of the votes was cheated of victory by this sectarian arrangement, the Financial Times correspondent Roula Khalaf brazenly reported:
“By winning 71 seats in parliament against 57 for the opposition, under a new electoral law approved by Hizbollah and its allies, the Sunni-led March 14 coalition proved that it commanded a genuine majority” (‘Voters dash Shia group’s hopes of greater legitimacy’, 9 June).
With a win for the patriotic resistance and its allies having been widely predicted, the United States could scarcely believe its luck.
Yet the election result was secured not least with some heavy-handed and blatant interference in Lebanon’s internal affairs.
Turning up in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, just days before polling, Vice President Joe Biden declared that the United States would “evaluate the shape of our assistance programmes based on the composition of the new government and the policies it advocates.”
More junior officials were even less subtle. Writing in Asia Times Online, Syrian journalist Sami Moubayed reported:
“In a joint interview with the London-based al-Hayat on Saturday, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Jeffery Feltman said: ‘The election’s outcome will naturally affect the world’s stance towards the new Lebanese government and the manner in which the United States and Congress deal with Lebanon.’
“He added: “I believe the Lebanese are smart enough to understand that there will be an effect. When Hizbollah claims that there won’t be any effect, when it claims that it is not interested in the matter, I tend to believe that the Lebanese with their intelligence would think otherwise.’
“He then criticised [Michel] Aoun [the main Christian leader allied to Hizbollah], who has been saying that the Christians of Lebanon should not rely on the United States, saying: ‘One of your politicians is proposing that Christians shouldn’t depend on the United States. I hope the Lebanese had accurately listened to the president’s [Barack Obama] speech that specifically pointed to the widest Christian religious minority in Lebanon, the Maronites. The president spoke about the need for respecting all peoples in the region including minorities … I hope the Lebanese would ask themselves: Do we want to be on the side of the international community and close to the stances that President Obama made? I hope they would say yes.’”
However, despite imperialist politicians and media crowing about a supposed “devastating defeat” for Hizbollah, the party will almost certainly be offered representation in the new government and will certainly continue to occupy a key place in national life. According to a power sharing agreement reached in the Qatari capital Doha on 21 May 2008, Hizbollah is entitled to a “blocking third” veto power in the cabinet.
In welcoming the election result, Barack Obama said: “The United States will continue to support a sovereign and independent Lebanon, committed to peace and the full implementation of all United Nations Security Council resolutions.”
This was a clear reference to UNSC Resolution 1701, which calls for disarming all armed groups in Lebanon outside the control of central government, which is generally interpreted to refer to Hizbollah alone. However, the Financial Times quoted an official of the March 14 coalition as stating:
“No one has the intention of going after Hizbollah’s weapons because it would mean civil war” (op.cit.).
For its part, in stark contrast to the poor losers in Tehran, Hizbollah promptly stated that it would accept the election result, despite its manifest unfairness. The Xinhua news agency quoted Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrullah as saying, “his party accepts the elections results, but will follow up election violations in a legal way and will not resort to street protests…
“‘The elections took place under US, Western and Arab pressure and intimidation to impose their options on the results and on the will of Lebanese people’, Nasrullah said, referring to the huge amount of money used to buy votes.
“He stressed that the ruling majority adopted an election campaign ‘built on lies and rumours, while the opposition abided by the moral rules of truth and commitment’…
“Nasrullah addressed the pro-government ruling majority leaders who made remarks against the elections in Iran, saying: ‘I advise (them) not to interfere in Iranian elections because this is an issue that you do not understand’” (‘Hizbollah chief vows to maintain calm following elections defeat’, 18 June).
No wonder Washington and London consider Nasrullah to be a terrorist!