Beirut has started voting, in the first election without Syrian troops for 30 years. Except that half of Beirut wont be voting at all. All of the candidates withdrew to give Sa’ad Al-Hariri, son of murdered Rafiq, a clear run.
It was Rafiq’s murder in February that forced the hasty Syrian troop withdrawal, and focussed international attention on today’s vote.
Syrian troops must withdraw – said Bush and Chirac – so that Lebanon can have its first free and fair vote.
But then all of Sa’ad’s rivals in 9 areas of Beirut withdrew. They had cut deals with Sa’ad’s Future Party to share the trappings of power with him, in return for giving him a clear run. They also got a refund on their registration fee. They’ve crowned Sa’ad the new Prime Minister.
Cynicism has replaced optimism. Neither free, nor fair.
So much hope, so much expectation, and before the Lebanese people could open their mouths, the politicians have imposed Sa’ad on Lebanon. Welcome to Arab democracy.