Lebanese Poll Shows General Support for Syrian Withdrawal Report by Abdu Sa'd: "66 Percent of Lebanese Oppose Disarming the Resistance and 54 percent Blame Lebanese and Syrian Security Services for Assassinating Al-Hariri"
In the midst of the rapidly unfolding events that followed the martyr Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri's assassination, the subsequent outpouring of public sentiment that came from two opposite directions, and the entanglement of domestic and foreign factors, an attempt was made to explore the views of the Lebanese public on the matter. The public opinion poll team at the Beirut Center for Research and Information conducted Poll Number 41 that sought to learn the Lebanese people's views on who they think was responsible for Prime Minister Al-Hariri's assassination and what the objectives of the US-French intervention are. The respondents were asked if they support the Syrian army's withdrawal from Lebanon, disarming the resistance, deposing President Emile Lahhud, whether the opposition is able to fulfill the Lebanese people's aspirations, and whether Hizballah should join a national unity government.
The poll, which was conducted between 2 and 7 March 2005, involved 800 respondents from all the Lebanese provinces who were selected proportionately from various areas and sects, with 60 percent of the respondents being Muslim and 40 percent Christian. The pollsters interviewed the respondents in person in the streets. The streets where they stopped and talked with the respondents were chosen haphazardly in every area just as the respondents themselves were all chosen haphazardly.
The results of the poll were as follows:
Chosen according to sect: To the question of holding the Lebanese and Syrian intelligence services responsible for the assassination, 86.2 percent of the Maronite sect's respondents said yes. Among the Druze sect the ratio was 80 percent, followed by Orthodox Christians with 78.6 percent, adherents of the Melkite Catholic Church 77.7 percent, the Armenians 72.2 percent, the Sunni sect with 49 percent, and finally the Shiite sect with 9.4 percent.
To the question of whether the US and Israeli intelligence services were responsible, 90.6 of Shiite respondents said yes, followed by the Sunnis with 51 percent, the Armenians 27.8 percent, the Melkite Christians with 22.3 percent, Orthodox Christians 21.4 percent, the Druze 20 percent, and finally the Maronite sect 13.8 percent.
Asked if it is likely that the murderers of Prime Minister Al-Hariri would be uncovered, the poll showed that 71.7 percent of Shiite respondents said no, Melkite Christians gave the same answer with 61.1 percent, Sunnis 58.7 percent, Armenians 53 percent, Orthodox Christians 51.8 percent, Druze 45 percent, and finally Maronites with 43.4 percent.
The views of the members of the various Lebanese sects differed on why the United States was intervening in Lebanon and which party it was trying to help. The respondents were asked if the United States was trying to serve Lebanon or to serve US-Israeli interests. Those who answered that the intervention was for the good of Lebanon were divided as follows: Maronites 49.4 percent, Armenians 47 percent, Druze respondents 40 percent, Melkite Christians 34.3 percent, Orthodox Christians 32.2 percent, the Sunnis 21 percent, and finally the Shiites with 1.5 percent.
As to those who said that the intervention seeks to serve the US-Israeli interest, the results were as follows: the Shiites said yes with a record 98.5 percent, the Sunnis 79.7 percent, the Orthodox Christians 67.8 percent, the Melkite Christians 65.7 percent, the Druze 60 percent, the Armenians 53 percent, and finally the Maronite sect 50.6 percent.
To the question of whether the United States may be considered an ally, the results were as follows: the Armenians 29.4 percent, the Druze 25 percent, the Maronites 23 percent, the Melkite Christians 11.1 percent, the Orthodox Christians 10.7 percent, the Sunnis 4.9 percent, and finally the Shiites 0 percent.
To the question of whether the United States is a friendly country, the results were as follows: Melkite Christians 41.6 percent, Orthodox Christians 41.5 percent, the Druze sect 40 percent, the Maronites 35.5 percent, the Armenians 35.3 percent, the Sunnis 15.8 percent, and finally the Shiites with 3.6 percent.
Those who considered the United States an unfriendly country were as follows: The Shiites 96.4 percent, the Sunnis 80.6 percent, Orthodox Christians 48.2 percent, Melkite Christians 47.3 percent, the Maronites 41 percent, the Armenians 35.3, and finally the Druze 35 percent.
To the question of whether France is an ally, 46.4 of Orthodox Christians said yes, the Druze sect 40 percent, the Armenians 38.9 percent, the Maronites 38.2 percent, the Melkite Christians 33.3 percent, followed by 22.6 of the Sunnis, and finally the Shiites 7.2 percent.
Those who regarded France as a friendly country were as follows: 55.6 percent of both the Melkite Christians and Armenians, the Maronites 53.9 percent, the Sunnis 52.2 percent, the Druze 50 percent, the Orthodox Christians 44.6 percent, and finally the Shiites 35.5 percent.
Those who regarded France as an unfriendly country: 57.3 percent of Shiites, 25.2 percent of Sunnis, 11.1 percent of Melkites, 10 percent of the Druze, 9 percent of Orthodox Christians, 7.9 percent of Maronites, and finally 5.5 percent of Armenians.
Those who demanded a full and immediate withdrawal of the Syrian forces were as follows: 94.7 percent of Maronites, 88.9 percent of Melkite Christians, 83.9 of Orthodox Christians, 75 percent of the Druze, 72.7 of Armenians, 53.5 of the Sunnis, and finally 24.6 of the Shiites.
Those who demanded a Syrian withdrawal to the Biqa Valley were as follows, with the highest percentage being among the Shiites at 39.2 percent: 29 percent of Sunnis, 22.2 percent of Armenians, 15 percent of the Druze, 10.7 percent of Orthodox Christians, 8.3 percent of Melkites, and finally the Maronites at 3.3 percent.
Among those who did not favor a Syrian withdrawal the highest percentage was among the Shiite respondents at 36.2 percent, followed by the Sunnis with 17.5 percent, the Druze with 10 percent, the Armenians 6.5 percent, the Orthodox Christians 5.4 percent, and finally the Maronites 2 percent.
Of those who opposed disarming the resistance, the highest percentage was among the Shiites at 94.2 percent with only 5.8 percent favoring disarmament. A percentage of 87.7 percent of Sunnis opposed disarming the resistance, with 12.3 percent favoring disarmament. Among the Druze 40 percent opposed disarmament but 60 percent favored it. Orthodox Christians came in the fourth place with 37.5 percent opposing and 62.5 percent favoring disarming the resistance. Among the Maronites the percentages were 35.5 against disarming the resistance and 64.5 percent favoring disarmament. Melkite Christians opposed disarming the resistance by 33.4 percent against 66.6 percent who favored disarmament. A percentage of 29.4 of Armenians opposed disarmament and 70.6 percent supported it.
Concerning the question of support for President Lahhud and opposing his resignation, Shiite respondents supported him by a margin of 81.2 against 18.8 percent and the Sunnis by 49.7 percent against 50.3 percent. The Armenians came in the third place with 41.2 percent supporting him against 58.8 percent who were against him. Orthodox Christians supported him by a percentage of 37.5 percent against 62.5 percent against him, the Maronites by 33 percent against 67 percent, the Druze by 25 percent against 75 percent, and finally the Melkite Christians, 19.4 percent of whom supported him and 80.6 percent favoring his resignation.
Among Druze respondents 95 percent expressed displeasure with President Lahhud's performance of his duties compared with 5 percent who expressed satisfaction with the way he was doing his job. In the second place the Maronite sect expressed dissatisfaction with the way he was doing his job by a percentage of 92.5 against 8 percent. Among Melkite Christians the ratio was 89.2 against 10.8 percent, followed by the Armenians with 88.8 percent against 11.2 percent, Orthodox Christians 85.7 percent against 14.3 percent, and the Sunnis 82.3 percent against 17.7. Among the Shiites only 42.6 percent expressed dissatisfaction with Lahhud's performance compared with 57.4 percent who said they were satisfied with the way he was doing his job.
On the issue of whether the opposition is able to fulfill the Lebanese people's aspirations, the highest support came from the Druze sect with 90 percent saying that the opposition can fulfill the people's aspirations and 10 percent saying it cannot. Maronite respondents came second with 84.7 percent expressing faith in the opposition against 15.3 percent. Melkite Christians came third with 77.8 percent against 22.2 percent. In the fourth place came the Armenians who supported the opposition by 76.5 percent against 23.5 percent. Among Orthodox Christians 75 percent expressed faith in the opposition against 25 percent who did not. The Sunnis expressed faith in the opposition by 47.1 percent against 52.9 percent. Finally only 3 percent of Shiites respondents expressed faith in the opposition's ability against 97 percent who said that the opposition is incapable of fulfilling the people's ambitions.
On the issue of whether Hizballah should join a national unity government, the Armenians supported this idea by 94.1 percent, followed by the Druze by with 90 percent. Thirdly 88.8 percent of the Maronites supported the idea, the Sunnis by 87.7, the Melkite Christians by 83.3 percent, the Shiites by 78 percent, and finally Orthodox Christians by 10.8 percent.
A number of factors have influenced the way in which Lebanese public opinion formed its ideas about the party that might be the primary suspect in Prime Minister Al-Hariri's assassination. Immediately after the crime occurred, and even before the martyr's body was removed from the scene, accusing fingers were pointed at the Syrian and Lebanese security services. On the next day the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Siyasah made a direct accusation against specific persons. The accusations followed one another until they took on the appearance of a definite, incontrovertible verdict especially from some global circles that also pointed a finger at the Syrian and Lebanese security services. This put the Lebanese Government in a state of panic and confusion, causing it to make mistakes in the investigation like accusing certain Islamist parties. This last mistake helped intensify the accusations against it. At the very least it was accused of negligence and failure to conduct a serious investigation into the crime.
For this reason a strong assumption took form in the people's minds that the Lebanese and Syrian security services were responsible for that hideous crime and that as a result these agencies would not be able to identify the culprits.
It also became apparent that there was a consensus among the Lebanese people over the reasons for the US-French intervention in this issue. Most of the respondents to the pollsters' questions said that these two countries' interests, which are harmonious with the other schemes of the United States, dictated this intervention. The majority of the respondents maintained that the intervention is indeed not in the Lebanese people's interest. It is striking, however, that there was a general tendency to regard France as a friendly country and the United States as an unfriendly one. This is in harmony with the general hostility towards the United States in the Arab world and Lebanon because of its consistent support for Israel.
Concerning the Syrian army's withdrawal, it seemed that there was general agreement among all Lebanese sects--even the Shiites--over this issue. We do not need to look far to understand the reasons for this attitude. It is enough to refer to President Al-Asad's mention of some negative implications of the Syrian presence in Lebanon. This includes the fact that some Syrian army officers and officials colluded with some Lebanese officials to serve their own interests and rise to high positions while the conditions in which the Lebanese people lived deteriorated. As to the manner in which the Syrian withdrawal should be carried out, a state of relative disagreement appeared on the basis of some sectarian and geographical divisions. There was near consensus over the need for the Syrian forces to depart. The disagreement was over the way in which it should be done with some people saying it should be carried out in accordance with Al-Ta'if Agreement's provisions and others wanting it to be carried out in compliance with Resolution 1559.
Disagreement also became apparent over disarming the resistance. The vast majority of Lebanese Muslims maintained that the weapons of the resistance were not negotiable. In contrast there were different opinions among the Christians over this point. Northern Christians generally viewed the resistance and its weapons favorably, perhaps because they are loyal to political leaders who publicly support an armed resistance. Some of these leaders are influential and popular like Minister Franjiyah in particular and Deputy Prime Minister Isam Faris in the Akkar province. Add to this the role that the Syrian Social National Party plays in adopting this stance. In the north Christian and Muslim village communities are highly mixed, a situation that weakens the sectarian perspective among northern Christians.
By contrast most Christians who live in the mountain area do not favor keeping the weapons in the hands of the resistance based on partisan considerations including loyalty to the Lebanese Forces, Al Al-Jumayyil's Brigades, and the Free National Stream. Additionally the UN Security Council's adoption of Resolution 1559 perhaps encouraged some opposition groups to demand that the Lebanese Army be dispatched to the south as a prelude to the disarmament of the resistance. All these factors caused mountain Christians to develop a relatively negative attitude to the weapons of the resistance. Sharing this attitude are the Druze who are influenced by the position adopted by Walid Junblatt, who is allied with the Christian opposition. It is useful at this time to report the contrast shown by the results of an earlier poll that was published on 6 June 2004. According to that poll 85 percent of the Druze supported the resistance.
The almost total support among Sunnis and Shiites for keeping the weapons of the resistance can be attributed to several factors. First comes the nationalist and pan-Arab implication of the weapons of the resistance, and this is a factor that constitutes the major component of these two sects' identity. Second, the two sects sense that the threat of the US-Israeli scheme against Lebanon and the region, and hence against their own identity, has become imminent. For this reason the weapons of the resistance, which were tried in battle and successfully confronted the Israeli army, liberated the land, freed the prisoners, and secured the country's water resources, are seen as highly beneficial in thwarting the Israeli-US scheme, especially in connection with the resettlement of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Third, over the past several decades Hizballah has demonstrated that it would never exploit its weapons to gain influence over other Lebanese parties in connection with domestic issues. After the liberation it demonstrated a purity of arms by dealing in a civilized way with the inhabitants of the southern villages.
Regarding the respondents' views on whether the president should resign, many of them showed a strong tendency to wait and consider the issue before answering. They felt that the president's resignation, just after the cabinet resigned, would cause a power vacuum that would entail many repercussions and cause crises on all political, economic, and social fronts. It might even cause chaos. Some of the respondents imagined that such a situation would eventually cause a civil war. For this reason the answers given by respondents from various sects were close to each other.
Concerning whether they were satisfied with the president's performance, the majority said no but expressed reservations about demanding his resignation out of fear of possible consequences. There was no need for any reservation about expressing their views on his performance. The majority of those who did not favor his resignation still said that they were not satisfied with the way he was doing his job.
Asked if the opposition was capable of fulfilling the people's aspirations, the factor that determined how the respondents would answer was their political affiliation. A vast majority of Shiites, 97 percent, said no because they did not feel that the opposition could fulfill their hopes of managing the country and ending its crises. In contrast more than 90 percent of the Druze and more than 80 percent of the Christians expressed confidence in the opposition's ability to manage the country's affairs in a better way. These results show that the assessments made by various Lebanese groups do not rely on scientific foundations but on the sentiment of political and sectarian loyalty.
Regarding the respondents' views on whether Hizballah should join a national unity government, the answers showed that all Lebanese sects support this idea. This reflected everyone's acknowledgement of Hizballah's political influence and revealed the respondents' belief that any national unity government that excluded Hizballah would not be really complete. Perhaps they also wish to involve Hizballah in the domestic political game in the hope of turning it into a domestic political player. What is striking is the Shiite attitude on this matter. It was the sect that showed least support for the idea of Hizballah joining the government, perhaps out of fear that Hizballah would be contaminated by entering the government.
(Signed) Abdu Sa'd, Director of the Beirut Center for Research and Information
(Description of Source: Beirut Al-Safir (Internet Version-WWW) in Arabic -- Independent and leftist, espousing Arab nationalist views; root URL: http://www.assafir.com)
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