Lebanese Wines

BEIRUT — Lebanon is known for its wines. The Bekaa Valley produces some truly excellent vintages. But what’s the favorite wine of the Gemayel political dynasty? “Michel Aoun won the election with Armenian votes, waaaaah!” (Say it out loud, it’s funnier.)
Yes, Michel Aoun’s candidate Camille Khoury, who no one has heard of before, won the election in the Metn district by a few hundred votes because the [Armenians](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armenians_in_Lebanon) strongly backed him. The Maronite Christians, however, backed former president Amin Gemayel by a large margin. This has led Gemayel, the father of [Pierre Gemayel](http://www.back-to-iraq.com/2006/11/pierre_gemayel_has_been_assass.php), the slain industry minister for whose seat the election was held, to complain that Aoun doesn’t represent the real Christians of Lebanon and his election is somehow illegitimate. Newsflash: Armenians are Christians and have been before any other nation could say that, dating back to 301 A.D., before there even *were* [Maronites](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maronite). Gemayel is also calling on the religious authorities and the state to force a recount or even a new election in the Bourj Hammoud district, an Armenian enclave where Gemayel said the dead were voting. As I said before, Bourj Hammoud looks nothing like Chicago.


But lest you think I’m reveling in Aoun’s victory, in his typical megalomaniacal fashion at a press conference just now, Aoun said all the Christians in parliament shouldn’t be there because only he represents the Christians of Lebanon.
Puh-leeze. General, you won by, what? 400 votes? A little humility would be in order here. It might actually go a ways toward uniting the Christians and, by extension, the rest of Lebanon. But no one loses gracefully here, so look for a lot of nasty accusations, possible street scuffles and a further hardening of positions as Aoun struts about like a triumphant peacock and Gemayel continues to call the “waaahmbulance.” (I feel his pain; his political career may be over.)
Aoun is a part of the opposition and wants to be president above all else. If he had won the election decisively, he might have improved his political standing. As it is, he lost votes among the Maronites — for whom the presidency is reserved — and just squeaked out a win. The Christians of Lebanon are as divided as ever, and they hold the key to the political stalemate going in Lebanon right now. Which way their support ultimately tip will decide which way Lebanon goes, given the knife’s edge upon which the political situation rests.
Interestingly, this vote won’t actually change the balance of parliament and the pro-U.S. government bloc will maintain its 5-seat majority. Why? Because the speaker of parliament, a Syrian-ally, refuses to recognize the vote as valid, seeing as it wasn’t approved by the Syrian-installed president, Emile Lahoud. Parliament also hasn’t met in months.
So after a bitter campaign with threats of violence and apocalypse, nothing has changed on the ground in Lebanon. The country is still split, the presidency is still up for grabs and both sides in this power struggle for control of this little patch of land still have their fingers on their respective triggers. We’ll go through this all over again in September when the president is selected by a deeply divided parliament.