If Marc Lynch doesn’t have anything to add to the commentary on the Lebanese elections, then I obviously don’t either, though I feel as though I should take a serious interest since I’m going to Beirut in a couple months.
Elias Muhanna aka Qifa Nabki has great analysis. If you’d been reading his blog (as I told you to a few weeks ago) you would know that he was predicting a defeat for the ruling coalition, but, as he says, “Lebanon never fails to surprise.”
Abu Muqawama also has a great wrap up of the election’s winners and losers. You can read it here. In case you’re not going to read the whole thing, I’ll summarize.
Winners: Saudi Money, Hizballah, US Central Command/Department of Defense, nepotism, and the Maronite patriarch.
Losers: Hizballah, Israeli hard-liners, and Hassan Nasrallah.
Exum explains how that works out.
American media is mostly focused on Hizballah, of course.
Don’t know what else I’ve got to say, especially since it seems like it will be a while until the real implications of the election are sorted out. What kind of government will March 14 form? They are probably pretty hyped-up on their unexpected win and not too excited to take in the “resistance.”
At the same time, I suspect that Hizballah, like so many other parties, are relieved that they didn’t win. Paul Salem wrote about this the other day in Foreign Policy.
Hezbollah is a surprisingly efficient organization, despite the fact that it is many things at once. It is the dominant Shiite political party and a strong opposition voice inside and outside parliament. It also acts as an army: resisting Israeli occupation from 1982 to 2000 and fighting Israel to a draw in 2006; receiving arms, training, and financing from Iran; and serving as a military proxy for Iran and Syria. Additionally, it is an Islamist movement that adheres to the principles of the Iranian Revolution (though it has accepted that those principles cannot be implemented in Lebanon). It provides hospitals, schools, and social services in Shiite areas of the country. In many ways, Hezbollah acts as a state-within-a-state — sharing power with other groups in the government, but maintaining its own army, finances, and foreign policy.
This is Hezbollah’s preferred mode of operation: benefiting from the cover of the legitimate multicommunal Lebanese republic, while maintaining enough military and political influence to be left alone. The problem for Hezbollah is that this model does not translate easily into national office and plays badly on an international stage.
Based on what I know the organization, I’m inclined to agree. If Hizballah ends up taking a “veto” role in the new government, that will might work out optimally for them. They can participate but continue to be an oppositional force.
Anyway, stay tuned.