Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hezbollah's March 8 coalition had a bigger popular vote margin than Obama in 2008

A commenter from Moon of Alabama directed me to the vote totals in Lebanon's election. It turns out that March 8 won over 54% of the popular vote in Lebanon's recent election (Barack Obama won slightly less than 53% of the popular vote in 2008).

These numbers do not directly impact the process by which the winning March 14 coalition will form a government (winning with about 45% of the vote), but they do point to the severe distortion caused by Lebanon's ethnicity-based electoral system.

Presumably, because Hezbollah's seats were all safe and uncontested, which meant turnout efforts were not directed towards those seats, a one-person one-vote system would have resulted in a bigger win for Hezbollah and its allies.

Lebanon does not do a census because groups that have lost population share since the current ethnic proportion was emplaced in Lebanese politics do not want an official certification of how much the electoral system shifts the national power balance in their favor. But every election there are election results that do just that. In this case the disparity could not be more stark.

Hopefully the US and Israel will not pressure March 14 under these circumstances to confront the popularly larger March 8 coalition in a way that could damage the country. I'm optimistic but slightly concerned because the US has an agenda for Lebanon that goes against the desires of most Lebanese citizens.


Peter said...

Thank you for posting this. I was wondering what the actual vote counts were. Since you like to analyze numbers, Wikipedia has a link to this page that lists votes for each candidate. There's something a bit strange in some of the details, though; for example, in Beirut II, all four listed candidates were winners, but each one got between 54.5% and 61.2% of the vote. Were the options to approve or disapprove only?

Arnold Evans said...

Thanks for that link. I'm not able to get an actual number of votes from it, because, for example, in the first district, there were about 120,000 votes. All of the March 14 candidates got between 70,000 and 80,000 votes. All of the March 8 candidates got between 30,000 and 40,000 votes. Obviously more than one candidate could get a vote from a single ballot. But how many ballots were cast for March 14, and how many for March 8?

There is a piece missing, but from the arrangement it looks as if it is also possible to calculate the number of votes cast for Shiite vs Sunni vs various forms of Christians - which likely is a decent proxy for the amount of different religious groups in the country.

I am reading that March 14 is acting conciliatory, perhaps more than would be expected, and it is hypothesized that it is because despite winning their opponents showed they have substantial popular support.

Comedian Chris Rock jokingly predicted that the day after the election Obama would be told "Barack you got the most votes ... too bad you didn't win"

Denying the Shiites a veto could be very problematic under these circumstances. I hope it is not attempted.