Search

 

Cablegate: Lebanon: Student and Association Votes Split by March 14

VZCZCXRO0427
RR RUEHAG RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHKUK RUEHLZ RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHLB #1690/01 3311511
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 261511Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3675
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIRUT 001690

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR NEA/FO AND NEA/ELA
ALSO FOR IO A/S HOOK AND PDAS WARLICK
P FOR DRUSSELL, RRANGASWAMY
USUN FOR KHALILZAD/WOLFF/SCHEDLBAUER/GERMAIN
NSC FOR ABRAMS/RAMCHAND/YERGER/MCDERMOTT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL LE
SUBJECT: LEBANON: STUDENT AND ASSOCIATION VOTES SPLIT BY MARCH 14
AND OPPOSITION

SUMMARY
-------

1. (U) Results of recent elections in several university student
councils suggest that Lebanese society is divided between March 14
and the opposition. March 14, however, dominated recent
professional association elections. The outcomes of such elections
generally are predicated on local circumstances and are not
necessarily an accurate prediction of national trends.
Nevertheless, observers watch the results closely and both sides use
victory to support claims of popular support. Moreover, a
consistent set of victories for one side could boost its electoral
prospects in the 2009 parliamentary elections given the Lebanese
penchant for siding with winners. End summary.

STUDENT ELECTIONS SHOW SPLIT
BETWEEN MARCH 14 AND OPPOSITION
------------------------

2. (U) March 14 and the opposition each scored victories in several
university student council elections that occurred in November.
March 14 students did well in districts where the opposition won in
the 2005 parliamentary elections, whereas opposition students
prevailed in areas where March 14 MPs won in 2005. However, this
could be a reflection of the fact that many students are not from
the districts where they attend university, rather than an
indication of local unhappiness with incumbent parliamentarians.
The students' own votes in the general election are not seen as
significant, since few have reached the minimum voting age of 21.

3. (U) On November 7, March 14 won a sweeping victory at Notre Dame
University (NDU), winning 25 out of 30 seats to the opposition's
five seats. Located in the pre-dominantly Christian district of
Kasrawan, where Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement (FPM)
currently holds all five parliamentary seats, this was the first
time since 2005 that the FPM lost this annual student election.
Similarly, March 14 won the November elections at Lebanese American
University (LAU) in both its Beirut and Jbeil campuses. In the
pre-dominantly Sunni Muslim Beirut campus, March 14 won ten out of
the 12 seats, and in the pre-dominantly Christian Jbeil (a district
where the FPM currently holds all three parliamentary seats) campus,
March 14 won eight out of the 12 student body seats.

4. (U) The opposition had successes also. Candidates associated with
Michel Aoun's FPM won six out of 11 seats in the elections at Saint
Joseph University, located in the Christian Beirut neighborhood of
Achrafieh. The opposition (represented primarily by the FPM and
Marada) won a sweeping victory in NDU's North Lebanon campus in
Koura (where March 14 currently holds all three parliamentary
seats).

FEARS OF POLITICAL
STRIFE PROMPT CANCELLATION
OF LEBANESE UNIVERITY ELECTIONS
-----------------------

5. (U) At Lebanese University, the president announced the
cancellation of all student council elections throughout LU campuses
nationwide to avoid political tension. Both March 14 and opposition
youth associations condemned the decision and called for holding the
elections. In separate communiqus, Future Movement, FPM, and the
Communist Party called the elections a student right and called on
the president to retract his decision.

INTRA-MARCH 14 POLITICS
PLAY INTO AMERICAN UNIVERSITY
OF BEIRUT ELECTIONS
-----------------------

6. (SBU) Even at the student level, cooperation within the March 14
coalition is a problem. Walid Jumblatt's Progressive Socialist
Party (PSP) issued a communiqu stating the PSP would not run in the
November 26 elections at the prestigious American University of
Beirut, but PSP students would vote for March 14 candidates.
Minister of State Wael Abou Faour, complaining about the Future
Movement's confessional approach to the elections, explained to
Polstaff that this was to protest the Future Movement's attempt to
limit the Druze community's representation based on the percentage
of Druze students. He warned that, without their own candidates,
PSP students might not be motivated to vote, which could hurt March
14.


BEIRUT 00001690 002 OF 002


MARCH 14 DOMINATES PROFESSIONAL
ASSOCIATION ELECTIONS
-----------------

7. (U) On November 16, March 14 won three out of four seats up for
election in the Beirut Bar Association. The fourth and one
alternate seats went to opposition FPM and Amal candidates,
respectively. March 14 also won a sweeping victory in the November
23 Dentists' Association elections.

8. (SBU) March 14 lost the presidency of the northern Bar
Association to the opposition Marada candidate on November 2. Many
observers told us that this was because majority leader Saad Hariri
insisted on presenting a Christian candidate from his Future
Movement, rather than someone with better local "Christian"
credentials, prompting a negative reaction from Christian voters.
March 14 SYG Fares Souaid dubbed this a "miscalculation" on the part
of March 14.

9. (U) Meanwhile, Hizballah Labor Minister Mohammad Fneish postponed
elections for the national teachers' union, originally scheduled for
November 23, claiming voter lists had not been updated. Many
observers, however, believe fear of a March 14 victory was the real
reason for the postponement. The Labor Minister has authority over
union elections.

COMMENT
-------

10. (SBU) Student and professional association elections occur
throughout the year in Lebanon, and political parties invest
considerable time and money trying to influence them. While the
results are debated intently as an indicator of national trends, in
fact issues or circumstances within the association or university
often are key factors. However, with parliamentary elections just
over the horizon, both March 14 and the opposition will point to
their victories as evidence of their popular support. Typical was
March 14 stalwart MP Marwan Hamadeh's comment to Voice of Lebanon
radio that the March 14 victory in Beirut bar association "reflected
the upcoming Lebanese parliamentary elections." Moreover, a
consistent run of victories for one side could boost its electoral
prospects in the 2009 parliamentary elections, given the Lebanese
penchant for siding with winners. So far, there is no sign of such
a run. End comment.

SISON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC