Mixed local reactions to Lebanon election
By Khalil AlHajal | Friday, 06.12.2009, 04:58 PM

A Lebanese family show their ink-stained fingers at a polling station in Beirut's suburbs June 7, 2009. Lebanese voters cast ballots in a tightly contested general election on Sunday pitting March 14th coalition against the March 8th coalition. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi

Lebanese Americans from throughout Metro Detroit are expressing mixed reactions of frustration, jubilation, relief and anticipation in the aftermath of June 7 parliamentary elections in Lebanon.

Results confirmed the ruling March 14 coalition as the winner with 71 seats in the 128-seat parliament, which included two allied independent candidates, against the opposition's 57 seats.

"I'm not sure when our people will vote for change, said Rami Haddad, of Livonia. "They like corruption, I guess."

Haddad, originally from West Bekaa in Lebanon, is a coordinator for Tayyar Michigan, a group of local expatriates who support the Free Patriotic Movement, an opposition party led by Michel Aoun.

He said that Lebanese who voted for the ruling March 14 coalition no longer have a right to complain about corruption or stagnancy.

"I'm kind of upset," he said.

Adnan Salame, of Dearborn Heights, a supporter of the March 14 coalition, said the election results were positive for the future of the country.

"I think this election will take Lebanon to a new era," said Salame, originally from the south Lebanon village of Barachit.

He said the ruling coalition of parties gives Lebanon the best chance of bringing economic and military stability to the country.

"The elected government is taking care of the future economy," he said.

He said the peaceful execution of the democratic process and universal agreement on the results were the best outcomes of the election, a sentiment echoed by Ibrahim Hakkani, of Canton.

Hakkani, originally from Beirut, is head of the Movement for Lebanon's Future, a local group that also supported the March 14 coalition.

He said the election was conducted fairly, that the winning parties have great responsibilities ahead to be inclusive and productive, and that the outcome boosts Lebanon's status as a leader and an example of democracy in the Middle East.

Sam Salamey, president of the Lebanese American Heritage Club, said that while the peaceful completion of the election is to be celebrated, "I do have a lot of reservations about the way the election proceeded."

He said voting districts being split along sectarian lines compromises the fairness of parliamentary representation.

"As far as the results, I believe the election did not change anything," said Salamey, of Dearborn. "We hope that all the leaders will heed warnings and benefit from the lessons of histroy and can come together in consensus to put Lebanon's interests above all."

While the Lebanese American Heritage Club does not support any political entity as a group, Salamey himself, also originally from Barachit, said his own views are more in line with the opposition.

He said he believes the ruling party is too focused on allying with the West at all costs.

Safi Taha, of Dearborn, also expressed frustration over the sectarianism that permeates Lebanese elections.

"This is not the way it's supposed to be for our country to be a leader in the area. The election is not right because it depends a lot on sectarianism."

Taha, originally from the south Lebanese village of Odaissa, is a coordinator for the New Generation Club, a strictly secular local Middle Eastern cultural group.

He said that while Lebanese often thrive as expatriates in new countries, they remain repressed in their homeland because of religious divides that seem to be getting worse.

Walid Mourad, a Dearborn resident originally from Tripoli in northern Lebanon, said the mood in his hometown after the election is positive.

"I do believe that the peole have spoken," he said.

Mourad did not say whether he supported either parliamentary coalition, but he said that all the tension between the two sides and accusations that the ruling March 14 parties did not legitimately represent the majority can now be put to rest.

"I'm very relieved that everyone, including the opposition, has honored the results," he said."It's gonna lead to dialague and relieve tension."

Mourad is a board member of the newly formed local group the Northern Lebanese American Club, which also holds no political stances.

He said new potential for dialogue on all sides as a result of the election will get the wheels of Lebanon's economy turning, and enhance the country's security.

"I'm very optimistic about the future," he said.

By Khalil AlHajal

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