Tags Posts tagged with "Saad Hariri"

Saad Hariri

Even if independent candidates don’t win big on election day, they are already having an impact on Lebanese political culture. They have introduced new styles of campaigning that come as a sharp contrast to how politics is commonly practiced in Lebanon.

While establishment politicians deploy their usual tactics: blanketing the streets with their faces:

Photo: Ali Harb/ Middle East Eye 

Spending hundreds of millions of dollars on canvases that say nothing and will be thrown in the garbage:

But also colonizing public spaces and causing traffic jams:

وصول الرئيس سعد الحريري الى قهوة دوغان – طريق الجديدة

Posted by Saad Hariri on Friday, May 4, 2018

 

Throwing lavish events for their supporters:

Posted by LF photos on Thursday, May 3, 2018

 

Giving out free flags and hats:

Posted by OTV on Saturday, April 28, 2018

 

Free food:

Balloons:

And even a Hezbollah orchestra, literally singing for your support:

Independents, meanwhile are taking the race to some unusual places. But places that are not unfamiliar to most Lebanese, who are not living in a party atmosphere.

The Madaniyya party, for example, held a press conference at a giant trash dump to call attention to the incumbent parties’ failure to deal with Lebanon’s waste crisis that is endangering public health.

Rather than adding more pollution to the mix, the Kollouna Watanti party created virtual posters on Facebook, photoshopping over the politicians faces with a deeper message: “When you see their advertisements, remember their accomplishments.”

فقط للتذكير أنّ اعلاناتهم ووعودهم الانتخابية التي تملأ طرقاتنا.. كان الاجدى ان تستخدم بتكاليفها الباهظة ليخبرونا عن انجازاتهم لا تكرار وعودهم التي لم تتحقق طوال تسعة سنوات..

Posted by ‎كلنا وطني‎ on Tuesday, May 1, 2018

 

Meanwhile the Kelna Beirut list decided to cover some of the faces with reflective sheets, bringing the campaign focus back to the voters and away from the leaders’ self promotion.

إنتو بيروت، كلنا بيروت

إنتو بيروت.#كلنا_بيروت

Posted by ‎Kelna Beirut – كلنا بيروت‎ on Tuesday, May 1, 2018

 

The Beirut list, LiBalladi, also introduced something that shouldn’t be new: debates between candidates

Curiously, establishment candidates cancelled their appearance at the last minute for unclear reasons.

Independents are also using their new platforms to raise important questions not often tackled by the media.

Here, candidate Ali Darwish unpacks the danger to Lebanon’s water resources that may result from the recent loans taken out by the Lebanese government as part of the “Cedre” package:

موقف علي درويش من مؤتمر سيدر للاستدانة!#كلنا_وطني

Posted by ‎Ali Darwish علي درويش‎ on Monday, April 30, 2018

 

Another party asks how well do you know your MPs? Do they ever come around when elections are over?

مين بتعرف من نواب بيروت الحاليين ؟#عصام_برغوت #بصوتك_يستمر_العطاء #لبنان_حرزان#تعليم #فرص_عمل #صحة #بيئة #انتخابات_٢٠١٨

Posted by ‎Issam Barghout – عصام برغوت‎ on Saturday, April 21, 2018

 

Finally, a LiBaladi commercial reminds voters that politicians have failed to address rampant pollution along the country’s beaches, the lack of safe public spaces for children to play and dangerous, overburdened roads with no public transportation:

شو عاملين ب6 أيار؟

Let's all get up and vote for hope on May 6!ما تطولوا النومة كتير، أجلوا مشوار البحر والجبل، وتعوا نصوت للتغيير ب6 أيار#شو_عاملين_ب6_أيار؟ #صوتي_لبلدي #كلنا_وطني

Posted by ‎LiBaladi – لبلدي‎ on Thursday, May 3, 2018

 

Now what is interesting is also how mainstream parties have reacted to independent campaigns. While some like Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea dismissed independents, others have somehow taken up some activist causes of recent years.

Here, Nicholas Sehnaoui, a former minister and senior leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, includes the Fouad Boutros Park in his list of projects, a plan proposed by heritage activists five years ago.

هيك بتصير بيروت الاولى!

هيك بتصير بيروت الاولى!تعرّفوا على برنامجي الانتخابي عبر: http://program.nicolas-sehnaoui.org

Posted by Nicolas Sehnaoui on Monday, April 23, 2018

 

Other candidates, such as Nadim Gemayel, have also begun speaking about the need for a right to the city, public spaces and sustainability, brought up extensively by new parties from previous elections such as Beirut Madinati.

Gemayel spoke recently to Facebook page El 3ama, which illustrates an important campaigning media change: politicians are now talking to alternative websites, when in the past, political communication strictly took place on party-run or affiliated channels. Interviews like this one let us see the candidates in a less controlled environment, catching them off guard at times and thus revealing more than they may have wanted to say:

Live NG El-3ama

Posted by Nadim Gemayel on Tuesday, April 10, 2018

 

Mainstream media outlets like LBC also seem keen on capturing a broader youth audience, with shows like Lawen Waslin, which is a bit like Carpool Karaoke with politicians. In this interview, former minister and political veteran Wiam Wahab takes activist positions on the destruction of Lebanon’s coast by private resorts. But then also in an awkward moment reveals that “women should not act like men.”

Major Lebanese TV channels are also reportedly charging guests up to $250,000 per appearance, keeping primetime a commodity mainly limited to the country’s business and political elites.

We saw a similar trend of activists differentiating themselves from mainstream political practices during Beirut’s municipal elections in 2016, where ruling party candidates also mimicked activist rhetorics. (You can read more about that in this previous post.)

Could this influence continue to strengthen in future elections?

During an episode of Al Jazeera’s The Stream, this week, I spoke with independent candidates and was struck by all the organizing work that has gone into their campaigns, with some creating nationwide alliances for the first time. Activist causes helped bring these individuals together to build wider networks and stronger platforms, competing in municipal elections, union elections and now parliamentary elections.

You can watch the full episode here:

Independent candidates are realizing that politics is a long term game, that takes years of organizing, alliance-building and election strategizing. But they are advancing quickly and their influence is already being felt. The mere fact that politics is taking place outside the established party system, that people now have alternative ways of expressing themselves and being heard is a feat on its own.

The number of candidates running this year (1,000) is an exponential increase on previous years, particularly when it comes to over 100 women candidates, including an unprecedented all-female election slate:

Posted by 10452 on Tuesday, March 20, 2018

 

Suddenly establishment parties are also featuring a number of women on their lists. Was this also a reaction to gender rights activism over recent years?

In their campaign posters, establishment parties project an air of confidence. This billboard simply says: “Beirut, don’t worry.”

But maybe Beirut should worry. The country is facing an environmental disaster, a public services disaster, a refugee crisis on a globally unprecedented scale, just to name a few.  Even if activists do not win, they are forming stronger coalitions of dissent to challenge those in power.

The political parties are still very entrenched and well resourced- after all, they have been building themselves up for decades. But their media and messaging is increasingly undermined and outdated. With so many new online media outlets, they can no longer monopolize public debates and hide uncomfortable issues from public view. With so many people interested in politics for the first time (partly due to the party’s failures) competition and oversight is growing and politicians cannot rely on old tactics as much as they once did.

In this changing political environment, it is the old guard that should be worried or at least less comfortable, and that could be a good thing for everyone.

If you still haven’t made up your mind, there are many resources out there such as Mist3ideen and Megaphone that have put together some extensive research on the candidates and the voting process.

2

Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer. I’m not a fan of quoting cliches, but in these Machiavellian times, few phrases seem to articulate the situation better. Take the case of the recent media campaign praising Saad Hariri, Lebanon’s recently resigned prime minister.

Now it’s very normal to see posters praising politicians hastily strung up on light posts across Beirut. As you would expect, these are usually produced by a PR company or low budget design shop associated with the politician in question and hung up haphazardly by his supporters, illegally, often under the cover of night.

But what if the group putting up the billboards is not loyal to the politician in question, but actually allied with his enemies?

I began to wonder about this when I saw a Facebook post revealing Hariri billboards in or around neighborhoods loyal to his rivals, Hezbollah and Amal.

Mar Elias, photo: Dina J. Salem

The next day on my way to work, I noticed more of the same posters with the same font and message “#We are with you” plastered across many parts of Beirut.

From downtown:

To the corniche:

Bliss street:

And Hamra:

On nearly every light post, as far as the eye could see:

Yet the last few locations are not known to be strongholds of Hariri, but of other parties such as Amal and the SSNP. This was made abundantly clear during the clashes of 2008, when militants from these parties took over the streets fairly easily and strung their flags across these locations.

In the decade since, SSNP flags have appeared regularly across Hamra street and the party’s annual march turned into a military-style parade a few weeks ago that saw hundreds of party faithful take over the entire of Hamra street:

SSNP march, Hamra street, Beirut, Sept. 2017
SSNP march, Hamra street, Beirut, Sept. 2017

I thought about all this when I looked up at one of the posters, which had been put up so shoddily, it appeared to give Hariri a grimacing look:

 

I asked some tough-looking middle aged men sitting in plastic chairs below the posters if they knew who had put them up. At first one of them, a burly man in his late 40s, answered by saying “the Lebanese people put these posters up” and “it’s natural for a people to support their prime minister.”  Sure, I replied,  there is public support and then there are printing companies that print hundreds of these and distribute them in trucks. He smiled and vaguely suggested it was “political parties… all the parties,” that worked together to install the posters in their respective neighborhoods.

But I pressed him further: “But only certain parties can do that in Hamra.” Finally he conceded. “Yes we are the ones who put those up. The Hezb, the Harake and the Oumi Souryi.” This is shorthand for Hezbollah, Amal and the SSNP.

That’s a pretty savvy, next-level media strategy isn’t it, I replied. “Well the Saudis are donkeys,” he said nonchalantly.

“And what about this one,” I continued, pointing to the grimacing Hariri. What happened there? The man motioned to one of his cohort sitting in a chair behind us. “That’s Ali’s fault, I told him to fix it, he didn’t know what he was doing.” Then Ali shrugged and shot back: “You didn’t give me enough wood to put it up properly.”

I left the bickering men and tried to corroborate the story elsewhere on the block. But most people said they had not seen who had put the posters up because they found them in the morning when they opened their shops. So apparently the operation had happened overnight. But another group of men admitted laughingly that it was indeed the “Hezb, Harake and Oumi.” And they thought it was pretty hilarious too.

If this is true, could the Saudis have ever imagined this outcome? Were they assuming that Hariri’s resignation would have been taken at face value and that his opponents would have simply said good riddance, creating greater division in the country? Could the Saudis have imagined that Hariri’s opponents would be demanding his return even more vociferously than his allies?

Of course this goes beyond billboards: the President of Lebanon and the leader of Hezbollah-traditional opponents of Hariri–have been demanding his return on a near daily basis.  Even the leader of the Catholic church in Lebanon, Cardinal Bechara Rai has demanded his return, making an unprecedented visit to the Wahhabist state.

This spawned some interesting memes. Here the two are speaking in code:

The highlighted letters in the Hariri caption say: “I’m being detained” to which Rai replies: “We all know.”

Perhaps the Saudis had imagined the Lebanese would react in a simplistic “sectarian fashion” where politicians or crown princes prioritize their own sect above all others. I wonder where they got that idea?

Suffice to say, Hariri’s opponents and even internet trolls have successfully thrown the ball back into Saudi Arabia’s court and the Saudi leadership probably didn’t see this coming. But since the Saudi royal court (or whatever is left of it) has effectively declared that Lebanon is at war with them, we can only hope the disintegration of their media strategy will give them pause before pursuing further actions on the ground.

Wouldn’t it be great if all wars were limited to creative media messaging, and the winner could be decided with likes and retweets instead of missiles and bullets?

Via: Abbas Hamideh

3
Hariri meets Velayati at his office in Beirut. Source: Mehr News

“We praise Hariri, the government and the people for the recent victories in the face of terrorist forces.”

Today this quote may sound like it came from Saudi Arabia, where Saad Hariri, Lebanon’s former prime minister, is supposedly taking refugee due to what he says is a threat against his life from Iran. But would it surprise you if this flattering quote came from none other than an advisor to Iran’s supreme leader who visited Hariri just one day before he departed and announced his resignation from Saudi Arabia?

The advisor, Ali Akbar Velayati visited Hariri last Friday and added: “The formation of a coalition government between March 8 (Hezbollah-led coalition) and March 14 (Hariri-led coalition) is a victory, a great success and a blessing for the Lebanese people.”

“We had a good, positive, constructive and practical meeting with Prime Minister Hariri, especially since the Iranian -Lebanese relations are always constructive and Iran always supports and protects Lebanon’s independence…” 

Does this sound like an Iran that is threatening Hariri or congratulating him?

But you might say, hold on, wait a minute- this must be some sort of Iranian propaganda. Hariri would never endorse this speech, which is a total lie.

Actually not only did Hariri endorse this speech, he sent it out through his email list to hundreds of journalists on Friday, shortly after the meeting. In fact Hariri sends an email almost every day about his speeches and those that visit him. Surely his staff would not have broadcast a message Hariri believed to be harmful propaganda?

Also have a look at the pictures. Hariri seems to be smiling and very at ease in both shots:

 

Of course this does not substitute for an actual transcript of the meeting and we may never know what all was said. But it does seem odd that Hariri would be distributing a speech by someone who apparently just threatened his life.

I’m posting this because you won’t hear this narrative in much of the US mainstream media coverage, which is reporting Hariri’s story with little question, while demonizing Iran as usual and touting Saudi Arabia’s so-called “crackdown” against corruption, also without question:

An alternate narrative circulating in Beirut is that Hariri’s life was not threatened (the Lebanese army and police both denied having any intel on this), but that he resigned out of fear of upsetting Saudi Arabia, where he and his family have huge amounts of financial assets.

What’s also interesting is that the Saudi-led blockade against Qatar also began after a warming of relations between the gulf state and Iran. In that case, Saudi Arabia couched the move as part of the war on terrorism. So is the war on corruption just the latest pretext to consolidate power? Can Saudi Arabia simply not tolerate any cracks in its campaign against Iran?

Like Qatar, Hariri also seemed to be warming up to Iran and its allies in Lebanon over recent months, speaking frequently about the need for dialogue and compromises, working on joint legislation with pro-Hezbollah MPs on such issues as a raise for civil servants and electoral reform. That’s what was so surprising about his resignation-things actually seemed to be going relatively well in Lebanese politics ( a sentiment confirmed by the leader of Hezbollah) and elections were finally expected this year.

Here is the full email as sent by Hariri’s office. Notice that Hariri had other meetings that day, including one with the head of a television network in an effort to combat intellectual piracy and stolen cable channels. It seems like a mundane issue and an odd way to end a day marked by fear.

Full email below:

 

Press Office of the President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri

03- 11– 2017

Hariri receives Velayati

 

The President of the Council of Minister Saad Hariri received today at the Grand Serail the senior adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Akbar Velayati, accompanied by the Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Mohamed Fathali and a delegation, in the presence of Hariri’s chief of staff Nader Hariri.

After the meeting, Velayati said: “We had a good, positive, constructive and practical meeting with Prime Minister Hariri, especially since the Iranian-Lebanese relations are always constructive and Iran always supports and protects Lebanon’s independence, force and government.

We praise Prime Minister Hariri, the government and the people for the recent victories in the face of the terrorist forces and we hope to see more success. The formation of a coalition government between March 14 and March 8 is a victory, a great success and a blessing for the Lebanese people.

The victory against terrorists represents the victory of all of us against terrorism, and what has been achieved on the Syrian arena, as well as the victory of the Syrian government and people against terrorism, is our victory and our success. We know that these terrorists are supported by the Zionists and by the Americans. Defeating them means defeating the Zionist and American conspiracies against us. The victory of the Iraqi government and people against the separatist movement is also another form of those victories. In conclusion, the Lebanese victory against the terrorists and the Syrian and Iraqi victories represents the victory of the resistance axis at the level of the region and this is the victory of us all. We listened to Prime Minister Hariri regarding the actions taken at the regional level and we support them for the interest of the region.”

 

Electoral law Committee

Prime Minister Hariri headed at the Center House a meeting of the Ministerial Committee for the Implementation of the Electoral Law, attended by ministers Ali Hassan Khalil, Mohammed Fneish, Nouhad Al-Machnouk, Gebran Bassil, Talal Arslan, Ayman Choucair, Youssef Finianos, Ali Kanso and Pierre Bou Asi and the Secretary General of the Council of Ministers Fouad Fleifel.

 

OSN

Premier Hariri met with the CEO of OSN network, Martin Stewart, who said that he discussed with Prime Minister Hariri the participation of the network in the conference to protect the media creativity from piracy and the need to protect intellectual property in Lebanon, thus preserving the Lebanese economy and creativity.

An order from the Beirut governor to enforce laws banning campaign posters in public spaces seems to have fallen on deaf ears.  In fact, it’s as if the candidates and their election operatives are now competing to show the governor how lawless they can be.

I have compiled just a few examples since the police seem to have missed all of these or have been on some sort of extended coffee break.

Let’s start with the most audacious.

1: Brazen: in one of the busiest intersections where police stand every day:

IMG_7277

2: Double light post action: Is that worth two fines?

IMG_7138

3: King of trees

IMG_7073

4: King of the Corniche

IMG_7199

5: 3D

IMG_7372

6: Making it rain:

IMG_0124

7: My face 1000 times:

IMG_20160501_175815

8: Wall of shame:

IMG_7429

9: King of the lighthouse:

IMG_7075

10: King of the neighborhood:

IMG_7080

11: On a wire:

IMG_7201

12: Conquering abandoned buildings

IMG_7416

13: “Spiderman”:

IMG_7396

14: Dual action:

IMG_7422

15: Chest hair appeal:

IMG_7433

16: Refrigerator power:

IMG_7148

17: Legal + illegal = Panorama

IMG_7081

18: Cover-up

IMG_7444

19: On government buildings?

IMG_7448

Zoom in:

IMG_7449

20: Every step you take…

IMG_7390

At least one party (Beirut Madinati) is paying for legal advertising, despite the budgets of its billionaire competitors :

IMG_7144

When your candidate runs an illegal campaign, what does it say about how they will govern you? If your candidate cannot follow the basic rules of elections, will they follow any rules once in power?

Of course it’s not just about posters. Some candidates have seized major streets using fake police sirens to stop traffic for their convoys. Other supporters, such as those in the campaign of Saad Hariri, fired hundreds of bullets in the air to intimidate their neighbors, in a clear violation of the law.

So if you are above the law before elections, how will you govern after? Wouldn’t it be great if illegal campaigns meant their candidates were illegal too?

Local channel LBC ran this brilliant five minute interview with an unidentified man on the street in Tripoli. His language and delivery is powerful in Arabic, but I thought I would do a rush translation into English, particularly for a lot of the foreign press who continue to focus on “Islamic extremism” instead of gripping poverty as a major cause of violence in the city.  In fact the media, both local and international, frequently frame recent clashes in Tripoli as part of “spillover” from the Syrian war and potential ties to armed Islamist groups operating across the border. Yet what many seem to forget is that intense clashes have been ongoing in Tripoli well before the Syrian war, as early as 1990s.

The man in the video– a resident of Bab Al Tabbaneh (one of Tripoli’s poorest and most violent neighborhoods)– helps us understand why.

He begins by questioning Saad Hariri, former prime minister and one of the richest and most powerful politicians in Tripoli. He then takes aim at the members of parliament, whom he accuses of having a major role in stoking the violence in order to pass the recent “emergency” legislation that cancelled parliamentary elections and extended their terms in office. Their excuse was the ongoing instability related to the war in Syria. Needless to say, our man in Tabbaneh doesn’t buy it. Pay close attention to how he characterizes the vulnerabilities of both the impoverished youth and the ill-equipped military, especially in the closing lines.

 

Rush translation. Bold added for emphasis.

 

Man: The whole country is zifit (tar) (i.e. disgusting/worthless) the politicians, the government, the parliament, all tar, even the presidency, because we have no president.

Where is the public works, where is the security? Where is Saad Hariri?

He is sitting in Saudi Arabia. He sends billions to the army. Instead, why doesn’t he employ the young men sitting without work?

Today, if the young boys are working, no one will think about carrying weapons. But if they are unemployed, anyone can come and manipulate them to get armed and start a terrorist organization.

I have six children, I can’t even afford diapers.

Man 2: People are scared to come into our neighborhood

Man 1: There is work to be done in this country, but the members of parliament are sitting in their houses, they don’t care, they are well fed, they’re children are well feed, they are comfortable, they sleep comfortably. And then they get up and give a speech to ignite the whole neighborhood fighting and no one does anything about it.

One (militant group) goes down, another will come in its place.

There is no security in this country, nothing. People need to work, to get back to work.

There is poverty here, there is poverty in the country. It’s a shame. How many MPs do we have? If everyone gave a quarter of his earnings we could fix up the whole city.

The MPs are making 11 million lira ($7,300) per month, they are people, families more important than them, they can’t even make 1,000 lira (60 cents) and you want to extend your term too? Go home and take care of yourself, curse every MP in this country. The biggest MP in this country is (bleeped expletive)!

Man 2: We don’t vote for any of them and they are the ones that got us fighting with the army

Man 1: Who do you think the army is? Everyone knows that this solider standing behind us is either my brother or my cousin or my neighbor’s son. You think I want to go kill him?

It’s the politicians, look what they pass under the table. First they extend their mandate, then they don’t elect a president and then what? We are paying the prices and they are padding their pockets. Leave us alone already, do they have no mercy?

They tore up all of Tripoli just to pass the laws to extend parliament. Go extend yourself, just leave us alone to work.

Reporter: So what your saying is deprivation is the cause of what’s happening in Tripoli?

The people of Tabbaneh are good people, they are poor people. They have the wrong impression about us. The people of Tabbaneh are a poor people.

When we knock on the politicians, they never answer, people come begging them for help like dogs but they can’t provide anything. They are all crooks, each one of them!

$3 billion was sent to the army, for what? To kill people? Use the money to employ people. Make a tissue factory, you’ll employ 1,000 people. Where are they? Just terrorism?

Where is the terrorism? Go to any street in Tripoli, where is the terrorism? No one will bother you. If you wear a Bikini no one will attack you. Where is the terrorism?

Reporter: But what about the issue of backwardness. They say there is extremism in Tripoli?

It’s the politicians! They made a world war in Tripoli just to extend their terms. These bastards call themselves representatives of the people, they are only representatives of themselves, just to collect their salaries at the end of every month. They are the ones that created this.

I mean it takes just 10 armed men to destroy the country. They attack the army and they shoot at the army.