06/08/2005, 00.00
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Divisions and tensions on the eve of the elections on Mount Lebanon and in the Bekaa

by Youssef Hourany

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Next Sunday will not be a day like any other. If results in the first two phases of Lebanon's parliamentary elections were a foregone conclusion, voting on Mount Lebanon and in the Bekaa Valley will not be the same; they will be a real competition, a real hard-fought battle after candidate lists were announced in an atmosphere of divisions and tensions.

This phase in the elections is a rendezvous full of promises but also disappointments: promises because Lebanon is back on the road of democracy; disappointments because of political divisions, especially among Christians.

Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, the powerful moderate voice of the Maronite Church, has been unable to unite the country's Christian forces.

In this atmosphere, political parties have announced their lists of candidates. Such lists mostly seem to embody the contradictions that now prevail. Old friends have parted ways, whilst enemies are now united.

Who would have thought possible an alliance between Druze leader Walid Joumblatt and Samir Geagea, the Lebanese Forces leader tried and imprisoned when Jumblatt was a minister of the government that sent him to jail?

Who would have believed in General Michel Aoun's triumphal return after 15 years of exile in France?

Who would have thought that the Kornet Chehwan group chaired by Mgr Joseph Bechara, Maronite Archbishop of Antelias, on behalf of Patriarch Sfeir, would have been so divided?

Only the future will tell and reveal the truth about the new Lebanon.

In the meantime, Saad Hariri, son of the late former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, continues his march towards the Grand Serail, the seat of government his assassinated father rebuilt when he was first appointed Premier in 1992.

Despite lacking his father's experience and prudence, the young Hariri currently tops the list of possible Sunni candidates for the premiership. Why? As Minister Fares Boueiz put it, because Saad was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

Elected in Beirut, Saad Hariri recently visited Akkar in northern Lebanon with Samir Geagea's wife Sitrida, who is running in Bcharre, where he announced a list of 13 opposition candidates called the 'March 14 list'.

In Byblos before tens of thousands of people, General Michel Aoun announced his 'Reform and Reformers' list, whose members are running in the predominantly Maronite Kesrouan-Jbeil area (seven Maronite MPs and one Shiite).

General Aoun himself is at the top of the list that includes Neemtallah Abi Nasr, Farid Elias Khazen, Joseph Khalil, Gilberte Zouein, Walid Khoury, Chamel Mouzaya, and Abbas El Hachem.

During the rally, Aoun spoke about the role the new National Assembly will play, pledging that he will continue to work for the rebirth of a country worthy of its historical mission.

In New York, quoting UN sources Reuters reported that the United States dropped its request that the investigation currently underway into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri be extended to include that of well-known anti-Syrian journalist Samir Qasir. The need for a new Security Council resolution to widen the scope of the Hariri investigation is behind the US decision.

Since the authorities in Beirut have said they would go to the bottom of the Qasir murder to uncover the truth and have requested US and French assistance to that effect, the Security Council, including the United States, has decided to approve a declaration praising their determination to seek out and try those responsible of the journalist's death.

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See also
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Sfeir's intervention stops anti-Lahoud protest
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