05/28/2005, 00.00
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Sfeir: "The opposition's unitary commitment–words blowing in the wind"

by Youssef Hourany

On the eve of the ballot, the patriarch criticises attitudes and alliances of Christian groups who were unable to present a common front to build a new Lebanon.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Severe judgement passed by Marronite Patriarch, Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, about the position taken by the opposition as it faces the upcoming election round.

On the eve of the vote, well informed sources of Bkerke made it known that the patriarch would have liked the opposition to remain united, above all in view of the election and in the wake of General Aoun's return from exile. There were signs that the opposition may crystallize its positions during an electoral period crucial for the country, forming common election lists in all electoral districts. This move would surely have had the effect of consolidating the national unity which revealed itself in the huge demonstration on 14 March, as well as in numerous other meetings which took place after the assassination of former Prime Minister, Rafic Hariri.

But the opposition, which remained deaf in the face of significant challenges, should not have fragmented for minor reasons. Joined by General Aoun, it could have given shape, through the elections, to a new Lebanese reality, based on the national principles chanted in manifestations in Freedom Square in the heart of Beirut.

The same sources of the Patriarchate underline that Patriarch Sfeir is severely critical of the political attitude noted in recent times vis-a-vis the elections, like the alliances which have been set up.

He is astonished to discover that beautiful declarations of conserving the unity of the opposition were nothing but words blowing in the wind, and he asks himself where all the promises have gone: promises to act, side by side, to build a new Lebanon after the withdrawal of Syrian forces.

Meanwhile, on the eve of the first electoral phase, which starts tomorrow, Sunday, in Beirut, we wonder what percentage of the 420,630 voters in Beirut listed in the electoral register will turn out to vote. The indifference of the Christian electorate must be underlined; this is mainly down to the very strong sensation of not being truly represented in Beirut or at national level. And we wonder if the coming hours will be able to clarify this vision. Twenty-four hours before polling stations open, tension among the parties is growing in the capital, because the elections are not like previous ones, as former

Orthodox MP for Beirut, Najah Wakim, confirmed to us: "This is not about choosing people, but about voting against a project, which the Americans are preparing for the region. This is not the time to think about petty personal differences, but to think of the future of Lebanon, in the shadow of Resolution 1559 and of what this may bring in terms of internal upheaval". And he told AsiaNews: "Victory is very difficult, if not impossible, but we need to get a good number of votes at least".

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