Lebanon News

Christians largely uninspired by planned poll

File - The president 's chair is seen empty in Baabda, Tuesday, March 11, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

SIN Al-FIL/ BOURJ HAMMOUD/BEIRUT: Christians in Beirut and its suburbs expressed little optimism Wednesday that a proposed presidential poll would help elect a new head of state or fix the deep political fissures in the country.

Others, however, said the process would help show the Christian leader who enjoys the most support among his community.

The poll, a measure put forward by the Free Patriotic Movement to break the presidential deadlock, will survey Lebanese Christians about their preference for president. The poll would not be binding, but would aim to show which Christian candidate had the most support in the country.

Proposed initially by FPM chief Michel Aoun, the presidential poll was also endorsed by Lebanese Forces leader and presidential candidate Samir Geagea.

Despite the optimism in some political circles that the poll could finally provide a breakthrough in the 13-month presidential vacuum, many Christians across Beirut and its environs expressed deep skepticism.

“Whoever the people choose, it won’t matter,” said Maral, a shopkeeper in Mar Mikhael. The politicians, she said, “won’t listen to what the people want.”

“They’re going to choose whoever they want to choose.”

The poll, if conducted, is expected to show how much public support the two leading candidates, Geagea and Aoun, have.

Maral let out a disapproving tsk when asked to comment on this political binary. “A lot of people died because of them,” she said, in reference to the bloody Civil War history of the two leaders.

Sipping coffee in Burj Hammoud, George Nicolas said he had more important matters on his mind than a presidential poll. Yesterday, as various Christian politicians were lobbying for the presidential vote, his water was shut off.

The poll, he said, would only benefit the politicians. “It’s for them, not for us,” he said.

Moreover, as the Constitution requires Parliament to elect the president, a popular opinion survey would have little import, he added. The presidency, he said “is not in our house, it’s in their house,” he said, referring to Parliament.

“The solution is for Parliament to go and do its job,” agreed Georges Kassis in Sin al-Fil.

“Why this twisted path?” wondered Krikor Roussialian, an office-furniture salesman in Ashrafieh. “There’s a Parliament. They should go ahead and elect a president.”

Others, however, said that the poll would be an interesting exercise to see which candidate enjoyed more popular support.

“It will give an idea of what the people want,” said Nafaa Nafaa, a resident of Mar Mikhael.

Samir, in Sin al-Fil, was more interested in how the candidates would react after the poll was conducted. “It will show where they stand. The loser will either disappear quietly or make a bigger appearance,” he said. “Then we’ll know if they respect the public’s opinion or not.”

But logistical problems remain an issue. Although FMP MP Ibrahim Kannan said the poll would be held “within days,” the mechanisms of the survey have yet to be hammered out.

Samir expressed concern over which company would be selected to carry out the poll. “Even in statistical companies, there are political considerations,” he said. “That’s the game here, they can alter [the results] to their interests.”

Kassis scoffed at the idea that the poll would be conducted quickly. “You think the poll will finish? Not in a year!”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 02, 2015, on page 3.

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