Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Lebanese-Armenian Community and the elections - Part 1

This is the first of a series of blogs that will be posted on the Armenian community and the upcoming elections. There has been extensive media coverage (in English see Now Lebanon and the excellent article in the Daily Star) on the Armenian community and the upcoming elections. The focus on the Armenian community has been primarily because the community will play a key role in the Metn where a tight electoral battle is expected between FPM and Kataeb.
Picture by Harout (CC)

The Armenian community in Lebanon:

Incumbent Armenian Politicians:

Beirut 1 and 2

Hagop Kassarjian (Armenian Orthodox, Ramgavar, March 14)

Jean Oghassabian (Armenian Orthodox, Independent, March 14)

Yeghia Djerdjian (Armenian Orthodox, Hanchak, March 14)

Serge Torsarkissian (Armenian Catholic, Independent, March 14)


Hagop Pakradonian (Armenian Orthodox, Tashnak, C&R)


George Qassarji (Armenian Orthodox, Tashnak, C&R)

The political context of Lebanese-Armenians

Traditionally the Armenians, or the dominant party Tashnak, follow a policy of alligning with President of Lebanon. During the tenure of President Lahoud this policy led to significant difficulties with former assassinated Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The troubled relations with Hariri continued with his son, Saad Hariri. In the 05 elections Tashnak and Saad Hariri went head to head. This resulted in Saad Hariri, in the 05 elections, electing 'his' Armenian candidates (in other words the Armenian candidates won their seats through being on Hariri's electoral list and not through Armenian/Tashnak votes). Thus, Tashnak only won two of the six allocated Armenian seats in Lebanon and this was done primarily through an alliance with the FPM as the two winning candidate ran on the Change and Reform electoral list.

The 2007 by-election

Further difficulties with members of the current members of the March 14 coalition occurred in the Ment by-election in 2007. The assassination of Pierre Gemayel (Kataeb, March 14) in 2007 brought a by-election to the Metn. The FPM (affiliated March 8) won this seat from Kataeb after a very close electoral battle that led to tension and minor crowd trouble. According to Tashnak, after the Metn bi-election in 2007, “Amine Gemayel accused the Tashnak of trying to ‘impose its will on the people of Metn’, implying that the Armenians were neither proper Lebanese nor true Christians”

The 2009 elections

Although the difficult relations between March 14 members and the alliance with Aoun in the 2005 elections would seem to mean Tashnak would align with the FPM this is not necessarily the case. The principal reason being: the Armenians historical policy of following the President; not wanting to be with one political bloc; the desire to establish their own parliamentary bloc. These reasons necessitate that they situate themselves in the middle of Lebanese political system. Further to this, according to anaylsts interviewed by the the Daily Star, the transnational nature of the Armenian community means that there are Armenians in Syria that appear to want to push Tashnak towards March 8 and American Armenians that have reportedly want to push Tashnak towards March 14 (see Daily Star).

Enter Michel Murr who exited an alliance with FPM and has opened a delicate partnership in the Metn with March 14 (Michel Murr, father of Elias Murr who is the Defence Minister selected by the President). One possibility is that the Armenians align with the FPM but also put Murr on their list and not his political allies. But if Murr decides to go along with March 14 and they place non-Tashnak candidates on their list for the Armenian seats in the Metn/Beirut I then Tashnak will find it difficult to find a balancing position or be able to form their parliamentary bloc and stop non-Tashnak Armenias supported by March 14 from gaining parliamentary seats. The balancing act in Lebanon's polarized political system will be a immense political challenge. It may well be that the decision will be pushed to the final hour. Tahsnak will no doubt hope to follow in the footsteps of the President they wish to serve.

1 comment:

  1. there are 1 million armenians today living around the world with lebanese passports or rights to bear lebanese passport
    if those get back the right to vote, they will be the biggest voting block in any elections.
    they will decide the outcome of Beirut 1, Beirut 2, zahle, matn, in total... 25 member of parliament.
    do the math