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World December 16, 2007
The "Arab Democracy" Goes to the Polls
An eXile guide to getting your head around Lebanon’s presidential elections By Khaled Assaad Browse author
Page 2 of 2

So what we have now is every two or three days some new unheard of guy pops up out of nowhere and tries to pitch himself as the consensual candidates. Anyone named Michel, George, Joseph or something French-sounding is eligible. The government has done all but put an ad in the paper: "Maronite Lebanese needed for a position of head of state, experience not necessary, salary negotiable". The worst thing is, people have been so focused on who will become president that they missed the fact that it doesn't matter any more. The president's term ended on November 23 and "former" president Emile Lahoud, remnant of the Syrian occupation, left the presidential palace and turned over the executive powers to the Sunni Prime minister and the presidency has been vacant ever since and no one seems to care.

For some reason, the presidency still holds great value to someone: The French. The election has turned into a regional and international affair involving the U.S., Russia, Europe, and of course, Syria and Iran. French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner has been flying in and out of Beirut trying to broker a compromise between the two camps, and the poor guy is fed some crap every time by all the parties. He then holds a press conference at the end of every trip to expresses "optimism" that a solution will be reached soon. But it never is.

I'm not sure whether the French believe there is something to get out of this, or whether Kouchner is just getting a kick out of staying at the Ottoman style government building Serail. But the French have been intensely involved in diplomatic shuttling between Moscow, Damascus, and Tehran. Then Syria goes to Annapolis and out of nowhere, all parties seem to agree on Lebanese army commander General Michel Suleiman as a consensus president. Perhaps the best way to put it is like that Hezbollah spokesman said on TV: "The point is to agree on a president; elections are just a formality."

Democracy at its best, I tell you.

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