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The Christians’ battle

Lebanon’s new cabinet has a strong Christian presence, with the Lebanese Forces, the Kataeb and the Free Patriotic Movement all awarded key ministries. This phenomenon signals a shift in strategy by the Future Movement, the Democratic Gathering and March 8 in preparation for the 2009 legislative elections, where the main battle waged will be for the Christian vote, the outcome of which will have a direct impact on the Sunni-Shia power struggle. In fact, it may even determine the future stability of Lebanon.

Christian ministers from the Future Movement and the Democratic Gathering have been supplanted in the government by Christian ministers representing major Christian parties. The Lebanese Forces got two ministers: Ibrahim Najjar for Justice, despite a number of objections from March 8, and Antoine Karam for Environment. The Kataeb got Elie Marouni for Tourism, thereby filling the political void left by murdered Pierre Gemayel and Antoine Ghanem.

The Free Patriotic Movement’s (FPM) share is made up of Issam Abu Jamra as deputy prime minister, Gebran Bassil as minister of telecommunications, and Mario Aoun as minister of social affairs.

On top of these key portfolios, those of the ministries of Interior Affairs and Defense were also given to Christians, Ziad Baroud and Elias Murr, both nominated by President Sleiman. Christians are also represented in other significant ministries, such as Information, Agriculture and the Displaced.

The only group that was not equally represented in the government was Qornet Shehwan, who commissioned Nassib Lahoud, the man said to be brought to the new cabinet as a compromise candidate to end the dilemma of selecting either Nayla Mouawad, Boutros Harb or Mansour Ghanem al-Bon. This new Christian lineup is not one solid front. The battle for votes has already started, and alliances are beginning to take shape. In the Metn, an alliance between Michel Murr and Tashnaq has already been officially declared.

Will FPM leader Michel Aoun eventually be part of this alliance? Murr has said that there is no bad blood between himself and Aoun after the latter ended his alliance with the Change and Reform bloc earlier this year, and on Wednesday, MP Hagop Pakradounian said Murr had made “positive steps” toward the 2009 elections. “We are allies of General Aoun and will remain so, and the allies of MP Murr and will remain so,” he added.

On the other hand, Murr and Amin Gemayel met Tuesday night over dinner in Bikfaya, after which no statements were made.

Although Murr is expected to eventually pay for his son’s reappointment as minister of defense, he insists that he will not enter a list with Aoun alone, as he wants to include key local politicians, as well as his son, Minister Elias Murr. Murr also seems to be waiting for the president’s election battle plan. If the president decides to support certain lists in Christian areas, Murr might run independently with a list supported by the president, instead of allying with Aoun or Gemayel. As for the Kataeb, it seems Sami Gemayel, son of former President Amin Gemayel and brother of slain Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, will run in the Metn.

Zahle is set to witness a more vicious battle between Elie Marouni and Elias Skaff, both senior ministers in the new cabinet. After the release of LF Leader Samir Geagea in 2005, the Christian power balance in Zahle changed in favor of March 14. Also, recent security incidents in Zahle and the Bekaa may have a negative impact on Skaff’s candidacy. 

Moreover, Christian areas are witnessing a new political trend. Although his position is still vague, President Michel Sleiman is expected to present himself as a new Christian leader by supporting a “third line,” a move that threatens to undermine Michel Aoun’s claim as Lebanon’s “Christian leader.”

In his inaugural speech, Sleiman emphasized demands and concerns that are significant to the Christian community in Lebanon. Other than rejecting the naturalization of the Palestinians and facilitating the return of the displaced, he highlighted administrative reform, decentralization, empowering the presidency and ensuring better Christian representation in high-ranking civil positions. These concerns have been the Christians’ main demands for many years, but were ignored during the age of Syrian hegemony.

As the next Christian parliamentarians will be determined mostly by the Christian vote, these issues are going to be underlined in the months preceding the elections. The other sects of both camps would try to support their allies’ guidelines in an attempt to empower them, but they, namely the Future Movement and Hezbollah, wouldn’t be able to impose other codes on the Christian street.

The Christians, because of their division, will be the community that will determine the future of Lebanon, including the next government, the next ministerial statement and the next policies. While the Sunni vote is more or less guaranteed for the Future Movement, the Druze vote will probably go to Jumblatt’s list, while the Shia vote is in Hezbollah’s bag, he who wins the Christians wins Lebanon.

  • Abou el mot

    Our current state is no longer viable: we must remain true to our past and to the sacrifies of our martyrs who have battled and lost their lives in defense of freedom and peace in Lebanon. The pluralism of our society is a gift, and history proved to us that no dominant culture can impose its orientations on the others... In order to live in peace and prosperity, we have to build a State that protects its various cultural entities, organizing harmonious relation between them: The solution is in a new constitution formula, that combines the divergent interests of each lebanese culture, in one unique, united and powerful state! "7allna ntawwir el nizam"

    January 6, 2009

  • Charbel,

    SAMI, can you please trace where i said i want to be lebanese. stop making up things. I was stating a fact, that our phoenician blood is linked more to them then to the arabs....Dont you understand...plz go back and see if i have ever said that i want to be greek LOL, and Sami, knw the true history of phoenicia and the maronites before you make up false assumptions and dont accuse me of saying things which i never said. AND Le Phenicien, thank you, but i disagree it wasnt because of GMA that we got our rights back

    August 8, 2008

  • le phenicien

    LIBANAISE - you heve not even 1 % from Lebanon . You are for sure an ARAB from north Africa pretending to be one of us ! You cant even spell our family names !! you have betrayed your self with that and with you very bad and stupid knowledge of the Maronites , the Christians , the Phoenicians " that we are " and our history ...!! As for Charbel , thank you for giving them that lesson of history for those who would like to change it , like they did in TAEF (...) . Lebanon is back and the Christians got their rights back in DOHA thanks to GMA and the Shiias .You can say good bye to TAEF and HELLO to LEBANON like we always loved it and wanted it .

    July 29, 2008

  • Sami

    Charbel, so ALL the Lebanese are Greek and Italians now?Or just ALL the Christians?So what are your plans for Lebanon?To join Italy?As long as you do not help our mutual enemy against the rest of the Lebanese I have no problem you being either Greek or Italian.I never said that the Shiaa are 7 or 8 million , it is a misrepresentation , I know my numbers well.

    July 29, 2008

  • Dahia

    sami, Le phenician is on your side dude, even the people on your side are unable to stand or understand your none sense comments....LOL...LOL....LOL....Good one le Phenician, this sami sounds like aoun when he speaks. NO ONE UNDERSTAND THEM!!!!

    July 27, 2008

  • Charbel,

    sami and libanaize, CAN you please research the history of the phoenicians and the maronites. Yes St maroun was from syria and so was SOME of his followers. BUT how can you deny that we, the maronites and some muslims, are phoenician. WE converted to chrisitianity but does that mean we are from antioch...how luducrous is this. READ THE HISTORY OF THE MARONITES AND RESEARCH THE PHOENICIANS PLEASE. We, the lebanese of north lebanon were polytheistic and pagans and we later converted to Christianity(syria). BUT we were in Lebanon for 8000 years plus(long before christianity and islam), since the dawn of civilisation. YES our religion is syriac BUT what has that got to do with our people,culture,heritage, ancesotry and ethnicity which has been in lebanon before the christianity or islam....DNA tests has proved that we did not come from syria or as sami puts the arabian deserts....the traits in the phoenician blood is more similar to greek and italian blood. And sami the shia ARE NOT 7-8

    July 26, 2008

  • Rabieh

    sami ya loser, you love aoun? when did this start before he said the HIZEB is a terrorit organization and implement 1559 resolution or after he changes is mind and start working as a tool for hassan?

    July 25, 2008

  • Cedars

    Sami and Le Phenician, it Quality not Quantity that counts my friends.

    July 25, 2008

  • Sami

    Beiruty, math must not be your forte, where did I ever mention 7 or 8 million Shiaa.Your are the ONLY one in this forum that denies the Shiaa's loyalty to Lebanon and try to attach treason to its name when this same attachment should be attached to the likes of you.Saudi Arabia/Jordan/Cairo can not help you This is what is missing in your respected community.

    July 25, 2008

  • Libanase

    'le Phenicien' Actually the Phoenicians are the ancestors of the Shiaa as shown by Genetic screening. The Maronites came to Lebanon from Syria as farm workers and cheap labor for similar reasons that in these days the Mexicans go to the US. The pre-Islam christians converted to Islam and later to Shiaa. The Druze came as Tribes from Yemen to defend against the crusades. The current christians genetically have their ancestors from Europe, not to mention those who recently immigrated from Egypt (Jumeyyil Family), Turkey (Bacradoni), Iraq (Totonchi), Syria, Palestine, etc... It is the duty of every individual holding the Lebanese nationality to show loyalty to this country and his fellow citizens before his religion.

    July 24, 2008

  • Sami

    Phoenician, I never said that the Shiaa are 7 million.My attack is on Marooniyeh siyasiyeh/in3izalieh all along, i have nothing against nationalistic Christian and love GMA.It does not matter who came first to Lebanon, it matters who defends it with blood and who cooperates with the enemy.And NO, the Christians are NOT the descendants of the Phoenicians , sorry to burst your bubble.The Christians came from Antichos 1600 years ago, some stayed after the Crusaders left, some converted.The Phoenicians are 6000 years old.God bless GMA, a true Marooni.

    July 24, 2008

  • le phenicien

    SAMI - I dont know wich SHIIA are you counting ! but if you want to count the diaspora , I am sorry to inform you that the MARONITES are 15 MILLIONS !!! You should not be that agressif towards Christians - Maronites or the Phoenicians that are our ancestors weather you like it or not and we are proud of them (...) as for the rest I will send you to read the " entente " signed between GMA and Sayyed hassan that will explain every thing to you and to others that hold the same shameful speech as you .. Lebanon is for all of us and it's about time for all of us to sit and talk and unite for good .BTW , the Christians are in Lebanon long before all of you guys !!! we exist before Islam !!! no hard feelings Sami !! this is in case you forgot or you didn(t study history (!) .

    July 23, 2008

  • Libanase

    'le Phenicien' and 'william', you sound like Sami Jumayyil and that is not a compliment...

    July 23, 2008

  • Sami

    the Shiaa are 7 or 8 million.

    July 23, 2008

  • Sami

    I hope you are not saying that the monasteries gave us FREE education.As you are well aware that we PAID for everything we received in Lebanon, either by blood or by money.Next you will not only tell us that the Shiaa are ignorant but also there are no Shiaa scientists(Hassan Kamel Assabbah), no Bankers(jammal Bank) etc.The alphabets were invented by the Phoenicians who are Semites from Arabia, and you have nothing to do with them, your origins are Turkish from Antichos.You do not fool anyone except yourselves.

    July 22, 2008

  • Sami

    William, The ethnic Shiaa PAID to be schooled(the Marooni regimes refused to build us schools), then built their own, no thanks to no monasteries.Education is a right not a privilege, should be given by the governments to ALL its people.Next you will tell us that the Shiaa sect are by nature ignorant and the Christians are born superior to others.Jubran Tweiny tried it and so did Pierre Jumail the grandson.France helped you with education, while you suppressed us and milked the country.It wasnt till Amal came into existence and at a loss of more than 200 thousand Shiaa killed during the war that we got some water, some free education and few roads.As long as you refuse to recognize that you mistreated the Shiaa you will stay ignorant.

    July 22, 2008

  • william

    those Christians are the crown jewels of Lebanon and the Middle East... They are the poets, writers, leaders of business and industries that built the current middle east and transformed it into a world power... The Christians schools located in the monasteries of south Lebanon are the places where your ethnic shiites became litterate before they went abroad to better their lives... So instead of being ungrateful you should be thankful to those Christians that taught you the alphabet and how to earn a living.....

    July 22, 2008

  • Libanase

    'le Phenicien' I do not care about unity in religions. The same applies to other religions. I want christians to "EARN their citizenship" by showing loyalty to their country first before their church. If political lines are drawn along religious lines, i.e. Chrristian unity, then the other religions will do the same and civil war will return; civil war is what the church (christian unity) has brought to Lebanon. By the way, there is no such thing as consensual democracy. Democracy and consensus can never coexist.

    July 22, 2008

  • Mohammad-Ali

    Sami, as always you throw in the numbers at your leisure. If add up your numbers, there would be approximately 7 or 8 million Shia's in Lebanon. The SSNP has very few Shia's and when the Communist party went into resisting Israel the 80's the Shia's had long abandoned it; and the rest were liquidated by Hezballa. Plus, it is important to highlight the fact that Lahd's Army was also carried by a Shia majority. Not only that, I would also like to remind you that its was the Shia population that threw rice at the Israelis in 1978 to welcome them becuase they "liberated" the south from the Palestians. Just like the christians who had some bad moments in the History of Lebanon; the Shia community's history has not always been the brightest!

    July 21, 2008

  • Sami

    How do you expect to live amongst those "ignorant "William?Unless you plan to immigrate?Give us heads up, a warning plz?Thank you Syria, thank you Iran, thank you N Korea.

    July 21, 2008

  • le phenicien

    I think Libanaise carries the name without been one ! Weather you like it or not , Lebanon is a mosaïque of religions that are represented by various political parties and based on a consensual democracy that has nothing to do with any other one .The Pope Jean Paul II has called Lebanon " a Message " Calling the Christian unity a crusader mentality means that you prefer them to remain devided !! What about the very many calls for the Islamic unity that we hear every other day !! The Christians should not be devided , their unity is for the benefit of Lebanon like it has always been and will be .

    July 21, 2008

  • Sami

    Rasbeiruty, while it was true that the leaders of resistance movements were all Christians, the membership was largely Shiaa.The rank and file(the fighters/regular )members were more than 90%Shiaa.When Amal came into the scene those sam members left to join it, thus the Communist and other parties were empty of members.That lead Hawi to change directions completely and revert to his Christian roots as did Atallah.The Shiaa now are in the leadership positions and do not need to be lead by others anymore as they are provided with services denied them by the various governments.

    July 21, 2008

  • Sah

    I just read the comments below and thought to myself "sadly, we will never be a united nation....Lebanon will always have religious frictions and that will always keep us divided....

    July 21, 2008

  • Joe K

    "Behold the brother that's not borne by the mother"... ALl that religious jargon makes no sense. March 14 or March 8. The christian vote in the next election will mean the direction of Lebanon for the future either way. I see it as Funny, that one could not point the finger at Syria for past assasination, becasue it may have been Israel that is caarying them out. Funny how Israel suddenly decided to stop assasinations and all parties want peace and goodwill for Lebanon. It is the direction of truth Vs lies and more lies. March 14 cannot and will not lose the next election. they will triumph over march 8. See you in 2009.

    July 21, 2008

  • Libanase

    As long as there are people who follow their religion blindly and vote according to the call of their Bishop, Patriarch, Seyyid, or Shiekh, Lebanon will stay the same and we will never have a government. After all the problems due to religious authorities we keep hearing about "Christian Unity"; unity against who and for what. Christian unity is another form of the Crusader's mentality, and the consequences will not be pretty.

    July 20, 2008

  • william

    The Lebanese Christians are back in the driver's seat and ought to be there... They are the civilized face of Lebanon along with the moderate and civilized Sunnis, Shias and Druze. These are Lebanon's goodwill embassadors and peacemakers of this country that will set the sail towards the land of prosperity and security... They will always embrace the culture of life and not that of death and hate that some ignorant baboons tend to impose on their countrymen. I hope that the Christian leaders are no longer fratricidal... And I wish the same for all Lebanese from the various religions...

    July 20, 2008

  • ali

    Moreover, it reads as if Shia and Sunni are using the Christians for their master plans. silly stuff. wake up and smell the coffee. if you haven't learned anything from Aoun's victory in 2005, you will never learn. free people will vote for who they want and not for what others expect them to. Here's a revolutionary idea, get rid of all the existing religious parties and let the people vote in a free and fair election with real political parties with ideas on how to manage a country.

    July 19, 2008

  • le phenicien

    The Christian vote will definitely go to the one that gave them back their rights , pride and freedom in DOHA ! No matter what happens . There is no doubt that the largest parliamentary bloc in the future assembly will be ORANGE with no less than 38 to 44 MP's ! Surprises surprises are to be expected .

    July 19, 2008

  • Mohammad-Ali

    I am envious of the Christians in Lebanon, maybe becuase they have allowed themselves the luxury of selecting their representatives. Sure there are the die hard supporters of LF and FPM but overall Christians end up holding their representatives accountable. Matn, is an example of that: While in '05 around 72% of Matni's voted for Aoun; in '07 byelections the numbers dropped to 50%. They have played a leadership role in democratizing Lebanon such as struggling for independence in 43, integrated freedom of belief (Michel Chiha) in the constitution and launching the resistance in '82 against Israel (Communists under Hawi and SSNP under Raad), and were the momentum behind the '05 sovreignty movement. Sure they have had some bad moments in History but all in all they have a bright history at least in Lebanon!

    July 19, 2008

  • Sami

    I hope you are not affirming that in the next elections the Christians will decide Lebanon's direction.At one time they were leading Lebanon to in3ezalieh(non Arab direction)which lead to a civil war.At another time the Christian head of the state decided on his own that he would sign a degrading peace treaty(similar to that of Camp David's) with Israel.Any return to entertaining such thoughts will lead to another civil war.The Christian representatives will play a major deciding part in the development of future Lebanon's position on the Arab/Israeli struggle, as long as it is in tandem with the rest of the Lebanese population.Any more marginalization of the Shiaa will lead to the destruction of Lebanon as we know it and wish it to be.

    July 19, 2008