Monday, August 06, 2007

Hizballah's Christian Soldiers? (Time)

Sunday's Lebanese parliamentary by-election was planned to strengthen the country's U.S.-backed government against the ongoing campaign by opposition forces allied with Iran and Syria to bring it down. But once the votes were counted, the election appears to have strengthened the hand of the opposition and highlighted the weakness of the current power arrangement in an increasingly divided country.

The election was held to replace two assassinated legislators from the anti-Syrian ruling coalition of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. And the government comfortably won one of those seats — the one formerly occupied by the late Walid Eido, a Sunni member of parliament who was killed in June by a bomb set next to his favorite beach club. But holding Eido's seat wasn't much of a challenge: He had represented a strong Sunni Muslim district in West Beirut where support for Siniora is strong. The bombshell came in the majority Christian district known as the Metn in the mountains just north of Beirut: There, former President Amin Gemayel, one of the stalwarts of the anti-Syrian coalition, lost to a small-time opposition candidate, Camille Khoury, who is unrecognizable to most Lebanese. Though Gemayel was defeated by just 418 votes, the loss is all the more stunning because he was campaigning to fill the seat once held by his son, Pierre Gemayel, who was gunned down in the suburbs of Beirut in November.

The rest....

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