Lebanon’s elections; Iran’s up next

In other election-related news…

The reactions here in the United States to the Lebanese elections yesterday are generally of surprised relief. The Hezbollah-led alliance that many feared would come out on top had a disappointing showing, and the “March 14” coalition led by Saad Hariri, the former prime minister’s son, had a very good day.

The Wall Street Journal and Huffington Post speculate that the Western-friendly results may owe something to Obama’s big speech in Cairo last week. Blake Hounshell, Tim Fernholz, and Andrew Exum are skeptical, and I agree; while the U.S. is likely counting its lucky stars, it seems hubristic to assume that one speech by a foreign politician, a few days before the election, would sway Lebanese swing voters away from Hezbollah.

The elections were a matter of internal politics, and the most relevant dynamic was likely Lebanese dissatisfaction with Hezbollah. (Though, indeed, Hezbollah does seem more comfortable, and possibly more formidable, as an opposition party.) I don’t think Obama’s speech was directed toward Lebanese voters, and this is a good thing; with the Iranian elections in just a few days, the U.S. would do well to continue this policy of not meddling, even rhetorically, in elections they cannot control. Whatever happens, the results are likely to prove, if anything, just as unpredictable.

(image from flickr user Sana Tawileh under a Creative Commons license)