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Powered by, one of the most popular daily English language newspapers in the United Arab Emirates.

Lebanese elections expose community faultlines

05/31/2009 11:49 PM s

Dubai: It's that time when many of the hundreds of thousands of Lebanese residents of the UAE don their political badges, their party's colours or display their political affiliations on their car bumpers.

It is also the time when divisions among the Lebanese become more apparent, with some saying that the practice of their democratic right makes the Lebanese ever more fragmented.

Even on Facebook, the social networking website, Lebanese residents from around the world vote for their favourite candidate as the best person to serve the republic's interests.

In most such polls, head of the parliamentary majority Sa'ad Hariri and head of the opposition party Hezbollah fight to keep the top position, courtesy their online supporters, who are busy lobbying other Facebook users to vote.

A number of Lebanese residents who spoke to Gulf News said they were tired of the social fragmentation Lebanese politics had created.

Some said they could not escape being asked which political bloc they supported. The question often comes through asking what part of Lebanon one comes from, or questions about which of Lebanon's many religious or sectarian groups one belongs to, or even blatantly asking which side one supports.

A Lebanese resident, who did not want to be named, said she would not vote for any candidate, political bloc or party. "I don't really lean to any one side. I'm 95 per cent neutral," she said, refusing to say where her five per cent leaned. She said that she appreciated her democratic right to vote as a Lebanese citizen, but would have submitted an empty ballot if she were voting, as a sign of protest to all the candidates.

"None of the candidates serve the interests of the country. They're more interested in power politics than the issues that matter such as social security, maintaining our neighbourhoods, the economy and unemployment," she said.

The only kind of Lebanon she would vote for was a sovereign one that would be free of American, Syrian and Iranian interference.

"Everything has become so politicised now. People have to even avoid wearing the orange colour because it's affiliated with the Free Patriotic Movement of Michele Auon," she said, referring to the Lebanese general who is allied with Hezbollah in the March 8 movement.

Lebanese residents of the UAE say they want to see fresh faces in their country's politics. The old guard, they say, fails to offer new ideas and continued to play old politics.

Bassam Ahmad said his constituency, Sidon, did not offer a single candidate from across the political spectrum that was worth voting from. "If I was voting in Beirut however I would have chosen Sami Gemayyel and Nayla Tueni because they are both new," he said.

Both Gemayyel and Tueni come from established political and intellectual families that have suffered political assassinations.

Ahmad said there was a view in Lebanon that those who have had members of their families assassinated will give up everything to serve the country.

Jad Sa'ad is rooting for the March 8 bloc led by Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic movement since "they are the ones who freed our country from Israeli aggression", and have vowed to "eliminate political corruption".

Fearing a spike in internal violence during elections, he fears "illegal" interference from government, which is backing the March 14 bloc. Hezbollah's weapons, he said, are merely for protection and should not be given up as long as Israel keeps threatening Lebanon.

Another Lebanese resident, who chose to remain anonymous to avoid retribution from Hezbollah supporters, said his biggest fear was a win for the March 8 coalition, the opposition headed by Hezbollah and Michel Aoun. He said they would "take over" the country if they won.

The Aoun-Nasrallah alliance was also the subject of doubt by Kamal Dauok, who chose to remain impartial. "There is no common ideology between Aoun and Nasrallah," he said, doubting that the alliance would last past the elections.

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