Lebanon’s political power clans pass their assembly seats to the next generation

Updated 12 March 2018
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Lebanon’s political power clans pass their assembly seats to the next generation

BEIRUT: Nine years have passed since the last election in Lebanon, and voters could be forgiven for being excited to see some fresh young faces standing to win seats in a Parliament dominated by aging men.
But in many cases the names, and what they stand for, are all too familiar.
Nearly a quarter of the 128 seats are expected to be passed on from an older relative to another member of the family, as the country’s politics of clans and dynasties shows little sign of fading. Of these, 19 candidates are standing for seats currently held by a father or mother.
For many of Lebanon’s most powerful families, a seat in Parliament is seen as part of their inheritance.
“Our politicians are dealing with the parliamentary seat as a piece of private property, which can be inherited within the family,” said Zeina Al-Helou, the former secretary general of the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections.
“The son — or daughter — will remain on the same political track as their parents, which turns the issue into the monopolization of politics by a number of families.”
In total, 31 seats for the May election are being contested by a child of the MP already representing that constituency. The length of the delay in running the election has only added to the number of parents deciding it’s time to hand over the reins.
In some cases the parent has passed away or been the victim of an assassination.
Tony Suleiman Frangieh exemplifies the system of political inheritance in Lebanon. He comes from a family whose dynastic story is full of the tragic plot lines entwined in the country’s history.
Born in 1987, he is a candidate for the Zagharta district, a stronghold for Christian Maronites in the country’s north. If he wins, he will be the fourth generation of the family to hold the seat.
He is the son of the current MP Suleiman Frangieh, who decided to abandon the seat in the hope of becoming president.
He took on the seat from his father, Tony Frangieh who was assassinated at “the massacre of Ehden” in 1978, in the early years of the civil war.
And his father, another Suleiman Frangieh, was also the president of the country between 1970 and 1976, the period during which the civil war erupted.
It was therefore inevitable that the young Tony Frangieh would enter politics after he gained a master’s degree in economics from UK. His recent comments to Lebanese media suggest his education has done little to provide him with an alternative political viewpoint to that of his father. “I am convinced by the alliances of my father, and I believe that these friendships serve the country,” he said.
“The national reconciliation is essential to Lebanon.” He added that he had no desire to become a member of the government. “I am a candidate to the parliament, not to the cabinet,” he said.
A staff member from Frangieh’s office told Arab News: “The son is not leaving the political track of his father, he will be reinforcing it and expanding its efficiency.”
Other hopefuls standing in May as part of the new generation are Nezar Dalloul, son of the Shiite MP and ex-minister Mohsen Dalloul, and Abdulrahman Al-Bizri the son of the Sunni MP Nazih Al-Bizri.
Michel Mouawwad, the son of the President Rene Mouawwad, who was assassinated in the late 1980s, is planning to take the seat of Zgharta-Tripoli from his mother Nayla Mouawwad, who won it after her husband’s death.
Experts say that while the elections in May will bring new blood to the national assembly, the family affiliations mean it will be unlikely to improve the way it works.
The assembly has been gridlocked for years by wrangling between the various political factions. The lack of effective governance, and the Syrian refugee crisis means that basic services in the country have deteriorated since the last election.
Walid Fakhreddine, an expert on Lebanon’s political system, told Arab News that some families consider the parliamentarian seat an exclusive right.
“The problem is the absence of real political parties which would produce a healthy parliament,” he said.
“Those who are inheriting from their parents will continue on their same track, and remaining in power is the most important thing to them; they’re seeking some kind of prestige rather than achieving development in the country.”

Election haunted by a tragic past
Among the candidates in Lebanon’s May election are a number of children of MPs who were assassinated in recent years.
In most cases, the sons and daughters still don’t know who committed the crimes.
Walid Eido, a Sunni MP and member of the Future movement, was killed by a car bomb in Beirut in 2007. His son, Zaher is standing to win his seat.
Michelle Tueni, is also standing for a seat. Her father, Gebran Tueni, was killed in 2005 by a car bomb in Beirut as he traveled from his home to his newspaper’s office. He was one of the leaders of the Cedar Revolution against Syrian occupa- tion that erupted after the assassination of the former prime minister Rafik Hariri.
Another candidate is Joseph Hobeika, the son of the MP Elias Hobeika who was assassinated in 2002.
 


Egypt probes images of naked couple atop pyramid

Updated 1 min 23 sec ago
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Egypt probes images of naked couple atop pyramid

  • Danish photographer Andreas Hvid appears to scale the 4,500-year-old tomb on the outskirts of Cairo at night with an unidentified woman who is later seen taking off her top

CAIRO: Egyptian authorities have launched an investigation into images said to show a naked couple who scaled the Great Pyramid that has sparked outrage in the conservative Muslim country, an official said Tuesday.
In a video titled “Climbing the Great Pyramid of Giza,” Danish photographer Andreas Hvid appears to scale the 4,500-year-old tomb on the outskirts of Cairo at night with an unidentified woman who is later seen taking off her top.
Hvid says the video was taken in late November but it was published on YouTube on December 8.
A photograph released by Hvid appears to show the couple completely naked on top of each other while looking in the direction of a nearby pyramid with the horizon illuminated.
“The public prosecution is investigating the incident of the Danish photographer and the authenticity of the photos and video of him climbing the pyramid,” Mostafa Waziri, the secretary general of Egypt’s supreme antiquities council, told AFP.
If the video was actually filmed at the top of the pyramid, that would make it a “very serious crime,” Waziri said.
The nearly three-minute video has taken social media by storm and has been the subject of late night talk shows. It has notched up almost three million views on YouTube alone.
“A 7,000-year-old civilization has turned into a bed sheet,” a Twitter user in Egypt lamented.
Another protested that “they want to soil the dignity and pride of Egyptians because the pyramid reflects the glory and grandeur of the Egyptian people.”
The authenticity of the images has been disputed with some arguing the photograph showing the pair naked appears to be very bright whereas the video showed them scaling the pyramid at night.
Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Enany told government newspaper Al-Ahram that the video has stirred “anger and outrage among Egyptians,” and that officials in charge of guarding the pyramids would be punished if found to have been negligent.
Hvid, 23, explained back home to the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet that he had “dreamed for many years of climbing the Great Pyramid” as well as of taking a naked photograph.
“I’m sad that so many people have got angry but I’ve also received a lot of positive responses from many Egyptians,” he said in an interview.
The young Norwegian, who runs his own YouTube channel, said he had absolutely no interest in stirring up a crisis such as that triggered by cartoons in Western newspapers of the Prophet Muhammad.
As for the girl in the video, she was not his girlfriend. “It was just a pose. We did not have sexual relations,” Hvid said.
The Great Pyramid, also known as the Khufu pyramid, is the largest in Giza, standing at 146 meters (480 feet) tall, and the only surviving structure of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world.
Climbing pyramids is forbidden in Egypt.
In 2016, a German tourist was barred from entering the country for life after he posted online footage of climbing one of the ancient structures.