Lebanon’s pro-West March 14 bloc earned a victory in the country’s parliamentary elections this weekend, gaining 71 seats versus 57 obtained by the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition. The elections are a major defeat for Iran and Syria, who support Hezbollah’s March 8 bloc.
Hezbollah warned of a crisis if the organization is forced to disarm, and Syrian newspapers aired allegations of vote-buying. On the other side, Saad al-Hariri, leader of the March 14 alliance and son of assassinated prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri, lauded Lebanon for choosing democracy and freedom, stating that “the only winner is democracy and the biggest winner is Lebanon.” President Barack Obama congratulated the Lebanese for their “courage” and “commitment to democracy.”
Robert Satloff of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy attributes the outcome, in part, to Washington’s use of “negative incentives” with Lebanon. Indeed, Vice President Joseph Biden reminded voters days before the election that the outcome would determine the extent of U.S. financial aid. Satloff concludes that “sticks” work in the region. He notes, by contrast, the marked lack of sticks (negative repercussions for dangerous policies) in Obama’s Cairo speech last week.