Lebanon Goes West

BEIRUT – Lebanon’s voters have handed a clear defeat to the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance. In a smoothly run and peaceful election, the pro-Western March 14 alliance emerged with a clear majority of 71 seats, compared to 58 seats for its rivals. The results elicited a nearly audible sigh of relief from Arab capitals, as well as from leaders in Europe and North America.

The fear that the pro-Syrian and pro-Iranian March 8 alliance might secure a victory was palpable prior to the vote. Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had eagerly and publicly anticipated such an outcome.

The March 14 Alliance’s victory is good news for Lebanon and the region, ensuring good relations with Lebanon’s Arab and Western friends, and constituting a quiet triumph for moderation and pragmatism over extremism and confrontation. It is also good news for the Obama administration, which had feared a regional setback soon after Obama’s historic address in Cairo on June 4.

The election also brings a much needed measure of stability and legitimacy to the governing March 14 coalition, which comprises the mainly Sunni Future movement, led by Saad Hariri (son of slain former Prime Minister Rafik al Hariri), the Socialist party, led by Druze leader Walid Junblat, and a number of Christian parties. Although the March 14 coalition already controlled Parliament, its majority had been repeatedly attacked as the result of a severely skewed election law.