By-elections, today in Metn and West Beirut, lead to tension in Lebanon.
Government supporters claim that pro-Syrian death squads did not just kill MP's Pierre Gemayel and Waleed Eido to get rid off two pro-government members of parliament. Both men were killed to make new elections possible, thus giving the pro-Syrian opposition a chance to gain its number of seats in parliament. According to Lebanese law - in case of the death of an MP, his party can not replace the victim but new elections have to be called for. This, more or less, means that if you don't like the election results, you get another chance at the polls by killing the winner (Don't get caught of course!)
Days before, I spoke to Kamil Khoury, the candidate in Metn for the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM). The FPM is the party of general Michel Aoun, a Christian leader who is anti-government and works closely together with the radical Shi'ite movement Hezbollah. Mr. Khoury runs against Amin Gemayel, also a Christian and a former president of Lebanon. Mr. Gemayel is pro-government, his Falange party works closely together with Sunni Muslims of the Future Party of Rafiq Hariri, who was killed in 2005. Amin Gemayel is the father of the late Pierre Gemayel.
Q - Mr. Khoury, do you think you will win in the Metn area?
A - Kamil Khoury: "I hope we’ll win and with as high results as possible. I see that we have big chances. People trust us."
Q: But critics say it is highly strange and morally wrong that you try to win the seat of an opponent who was killed?
A: "Voting is a democratic right. In Lebanon, it is time to end political legacy and emotions when it comes to elections. There is a martyr in every house in this country and we bend in awe to them. But this is an empty parliamentary seat, which the people should decide upon."
Q: Why didn't you wait with contesting the late Pierre Gemayel's seat until his mandate is over. I mean - he was elected for four years, so it seems logical that his party can appoint his replacement until his mandate ends?
A: "In democracy, people decide. Lebanese should give their trust to either sides. Maybe those who voted for the son don’t want the father to take his place. Many loved in Pierre his youth spirit and ambitions, unique traits not found in the father. Let the people decide their representative."
Q: Government supporters claim your party is pro-Syrian because the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) is in an alliance with the very openly pro-Syrian Party of God or Hezbollah. Are you pro-Syrian?
A: "If the FPM wins, I can’t see how the Syrians will have influence in Metn. We are not allies with the Syrians. If the Syrian Baathist party is sunning for elections then I can understand such argument. We fought the Syrians in peaceful means when they were in our country. We stood against them. Now we call for equal diplomatic ties with the Syrians and demarcation of borders."