It’s done and ready and the final touches are being made as we speak. It looks like the shops’ shelves are already stocked and the only thing missing is us shoppers… I did get a date, but I haven’t been able to sneak into the new Le Mall, this place is iron-clad security-wise =P But, I think I can wait till Thursday…
I’ve been meaning to comment on this law ever since it was approved by the cabinet. I even tried to Photoshop a map showing the “constituency decoupage” in a color-coded context, but to no avail. Until, I stumbled upon this gem of a blog: Moulahazat. They had featured an article about the law, and said it in better words than I ever could have, so, I will allow myself to use their map and description of the repartitions and then add some of my personal opinions about the law.
- The 2 Constituencies Of Beirut. Unlike 2009 when there were three constituencies, Beirut is divided to two constituencies, a predominantly eastern Christian one (With 7 Christian MPs, a Shia and a Sunni) and a predominantly Muslim (Sunni) western one (With 5 Sunni MPs, a Shia, a Druze and 3 Christians). Usually, under the previous law, Aoun and M8 could only compete in Beirut’s first constituency (Ashrafieh, Rmeil Saifi), which includes 5 MPs, under a Majority Law which made things very hard for M8. Now, the Christian constituency is bigger, seperated from the Sunni one, and is under a PR law. Aoun can easily get 4 out of 9 MPs in the eastern constituency, and M8 has a realistic chance of being represented in the western constituency, with at least one or two out of the 10 MPs. A minimum of 6 MPs for M8, in Beirut where they currently have 2. The Sunni vote’s influence on 7 Christian MPs is being cut in the eastern District, while the battle’s result in the western district is no longer a foregone conclusion because of PR.
- The 3 Constituencies Of Mount-Lebanon. The constituencies’ shapes follow a certain a pattern. The 2 districts that are to a great extent purely Christian, the ones of Kesrouan and Metn are each merged with another district that has a certain number of shia in it. The former is merged with the distict of Byblos which has a salient number of Shias. Although according to PR, the results won’t matter a lot, but it should be noted that it can influence the results by an MP in Kesrouan, hence giving Aoun the upper hand in this constituency. The latter district of Metn will be merged with the district of Baabda. Baabda is 50% Christian, 30% SHia and 20% Druze. The 10% Shia lead of the Shias over the Druze in the district influenced the results of the 2009 elections in Baabda and will sure have an influence (although not very important because the winner doesn’t take it all in a PR electoral system) on the Baabda-Metn results, helping Aoun to get 1 More MP in the Metn. ironically, it is not the constituencies of Baabda-Metn and Kesrouan-Jbeil where the electoral battles are that are usually enthusiastic that are noteworthy, but rather the constituency of Chouf-Aley. In lots of previous electoral laws, the districts of Aley and Baabda formed on single constituency. The 10% Shia lead over the Druze in Baabda that I spoke of before was highly masked by the Druze which form more than 50% of the voters in the district of Aley. When Baabda was separated from Aley on the eve of the 2009 elections, M8′s win in the district was possible due to the independence from the high number of M14 Votes in Aley. In 2013, not only was Baabda separated from a predominantly Druze zone, but it was also merged with the Metn where its Shia can influence the battle over there. And merging the Chouf with Aley isn’t innocent at all. In a PR system, the higher the number of MPs, the bigger the district, the better representation you get. M8 merged the two districts in a subtle way to get one more MP than it can get. A simple demonstration will do it. Let’s suppose Aoun gets 45% of the votes in Aley (and thus 2 out of 5 MPs, 40% of seats) and 30% in the Chouf (2 out 8 seats, 25% of seats). If the two districts were merge, he will have 37% of the votes and easily get 4 seats while if the 2 districts were separated he would have gotten 3. Of course, Aoun should score above the average of the MP/voter or else he will get less than 3, but it is worth it to risk that battle if it means weakening Jumblatt in his headquarters.
- The 2 Constituencies Of The South. Jezzine, the only southern district where the Christian are majoritarian, and Saida, the only city where the Sunni votes prevails, were merged with the districts of Tyre and Zahrani hence their myriad of Shias. One would say that it wouldn’t matter in a PR electoral system, until he realises that there is usually 1 Christian MP for every 20000 Christian while there is 1 Muslim MP for every 30000 Muslim. there will be about a 10000 Muslim voter overflow on each Christian MP. In other words, because of PR, it is very likely that the Shias voters will indirectly pick a Christian MP of Jezzine and another Sunni one from Saida. Another constituency, the one that happens to be the Governorate of Nabatiyeh, id formed by the districts of Hasbaya, Marjeyoun, Nabatiyeh and Bint Jbeil. It should be noted that if Hasbaya was separated from Marjeyoun in 2009, M14 would have won in that district. So to vilify the outcome of the district in a PR system, it was merged with 3 bigger districts where it is mainstream to be M8.
- The 3 Constituencies Of The Bekaa. The boundaries of the constituencies weren’t changed from the last elections albeit PR will help Aoun get 2 of 6 MPs in West-Bekaa-Rachaya, 3 out of 7 in Zahle, while M8 will hardly get more than 3 MPs out of 10 in Baalback. M8 will gain 5 and lose 3 seats, a total of 2 more seats in the Bekaa because of PR in these districts.
- The 3 Constituencies Of The North. And this is the best part. The 4 Christian districts of Koura, Bcharre, Zghorta and Batroun were separated from the other districts and united in a single constituency. And this move is full of meanings. The Sunni influence, slightly present in some districts such as Koura and Batroun, is even more diminished by uniting the district together, while separating the city of Tripoli from these constituencies should destroy any attempt of external Sunni interference in that constituency. separating Tripoli from Akkar adn Minieh-Denieh is also full of explanations. Mikati’s influence is concentrated in the city so is the influence of his allies: Safadi, Karami, and the Alawi minority in the city. separating the city from the other Sunni region is an attempt by M8 to fight a winning battle in the city. While merging Akkar with Denieh and Menieh seems similar to the union of Aley and Chouf: The more you merge, the more you can hope to get more MPs.
My Two Cents
The law is clearly tipped in the favor of March 8, it’s also clearly designed to corner the Future Movement (FM). One example is how Minyeh-Akkar-Duniyeh are one constituency, where FM will dominate, but Tripoli is on its own, where independent moderates like Najib Mikati and Mohamad Safadi can manage to make some gains at the expense of the more extremist sunni FM and its subsidiaries.
However, in spite of this obvious disadvantage the Sunni M14 has, the Christian M14 have a lot to gain, especially the Kataeb. It’s no secret that the Kataeb need to beg for a seat here and a seat there from their wealthier, better-endowed allies. That’s perhaps because the Kataeb are spread all over the place, versus en-bloc in a few areas. Now, with proportional representation, Kataeb can get their own seats with their own votes, without needing to kiss anyone’s ass. Surprisingly though, MP Samy Gemayel has declared he doesn’t support the law, which probably stems from their need for the FM’s financial support streaming in from Saudi Arabia. The LF have also slammed the law, surprisingly, to probably protect the interests of their Sunni ally and main financier, the FM.
Junblat, in stark contrast with his father’s ideology, is vehemently against the proportional representation law (PR) since it’ll see his oversized block shrink to its proper size. So, the FM, LF, Kataeb and Junblatt are against the law. But, remember, the M8 forces have 61 seats in the parliament, all they need is an extra 4 to pass the law, and in Lebanon, I’m sure a few seats here or there for Junblatt or the Kataeb can secure them enough votes to pass the law.
Lebanese people abroad aren’t too hot for Hezbollah, so, the law’s current format doesn’t allow them to vote, making M8′s chances of winning better, illustrating another example of how this new law is tipped in their favor, and needs to get amended in several places to level the playing field more.
This law in my opinion, is the perfect precursor for a federal-like, decentralized system. The fable that is Lebanon and the fantasy that Lebanese people can coexist, is being dealt the first blow of reality with this law. Lebanese people are not one people, they are not one culture, not one history, not one anything. They only speak the same language (barely) and share their quick-tempered, and short-sighted nature. But that’s about it. The 10452 we are all so proud of was drawn up by colonizing powers to maximize their influence and profits, not for our own benefit or based on logical thinking.
Ever since, Lebanese people have been clashing over who controls government since it has so much power and influence. First, it was the Maronites, then after the war the Sunnis and arguably, it’s becoming the Shiites now. So, when one is in power, the rest will conspire to remove him and replace him (or her of course). Result is corruption and deadlock sprinkled with street battles and a broken country we call Lebanon.
HOWEVER, if government is small and decentralized, if taxes and fees stayed within the local regions to fund local infrastructure projects and jobs, who would want the central government? If asphalt, electricity, water, sewage treatment, trash collection, telecom and a lot of other basic necessities and services were managed locally, on the level of the proposed constituencies for example, life would be a lot better. Christians in Metn won’t whine that they pay taxes but Shiites in Dhayeh don’t (or vice versa). Instead, your taxes will fund your own constituency, making it, in my honest opinion, the best option for this country full of liars and hypocrites in power.
Very few of us can get to a minister, with the security and their delusions of false grandeur, they become inaccessible. Imagine if it’s the smaller region’s representative or exec… Chances are you know him or her, or he or she might be related to you, making government less bureaucratic and out-of-touch with reality.
Of course, foreign policy, defense, justice, finance and other powers will remain in the hands of the central government, keeping Lebanon officially a “country”. Now, many of you might start shouting insults at me and parading your misplaced patriotism and “10452km2″ and “akbar min an yokassam” Arabic grammar crap, but put aside your dear leaders for a second and think about yourself, your own interests and how the real world actually is. Be pragmatic and stop burying your head in the sand: Lebanese people, or most of them at least, will never get along and that is understandable given the power of religious institutions in Lebanon. So, face the facts and do something about it. I think the time is right now, with Berri’s acknowledgment that this might be where the country is headed, means there’s a chance for it to work…
With a decentralized system, it’ll be easy to pin the blame on whoever is at fault and punish them properly in the next electoral cycle. PR also rectifies the false perception of democracy in Lebanon as being “rule of the religious majority” when in fact democracy’s most basic principles is giving a voice and power to every single person, whether he or she’s part of the majority or not. If M14 get 40% and M8 get 60% in a given district, M8 would take all 10 seats, but with PR, M8 would get 6 and M14 would get 4, making the representation more accurate and less vulnerable to vote-buying and rigging, where a 1000 or so “bought” votes could help secure an sweeping victory under the current law.
I like this law. Not cause I’m a religious fanatic, but because I’m pragmatic. I hate the fact that we need to divide based on sect, especially given the fact that I am an atheist, but I need to be a realist in this case and acknowledge that’s the only way to go forward. Perhaps when it’s clearly divided, people will stop being so religiously-motivated since there is no “ba3ba3″ from the other religion to falsely scare them with and my far-fetched dreams of a secular state split completely from old men wearing robes forever!
41 megapixels. Yes, forty-one (just in case you thought I forgot a decimal point). I know most of you are already very impressed, but some of you will immediately say “it’s not about the megapixels bro” to which I completely agree. I shared your skepticism too until I tried the Nokia 808 myself.
The phone camera comes in 3 settings, 5MP, 8MP and 37MP. Needless to say that when using the full resolution, I could take a portrait of you, crop out your eye and use the reflection off your cornea to get an image of my beautiful self along with the surrounding background, in terrifyingly good quality.
However, you don’t need use the full resolution to love the 808. Nokia has developed the “Pure View” technique in which an algorithm combines every 7 or so “imperfect” pixels and combines them into one awesome one. The result is a super-crisp photo that’ll never be grainy and is very zoom-capable.
If you’re a “point-and-shoot” kinda person like me, the auto will be more than enough to have you impressing people with your photography skills. But, for the more camera-savvy, there are loads of options you could alter, like ISO, saturation, color balance, etc. You could also use several pre-existing scene modes if you’re taking photos in the snow (a must for the Finland-based Nokia =P), at night or at dawn or dusk.
The phone comes with the latest version of Symbian OS, which is sort of a let-down. But, it’s polished enough to be enjoyable and it has never crashed with me during the past several months. If you’re the type of person who only uses apps Whatsapp, Facebook, Foursquare and the like, you’ll be more than satisfied with the software capabilities of this phone. After all, it’s all about the insane camera.
The build is awesome too. It’s not too big and bulky considering the massive camera specs and it feels really snug and sturdy in your hand. The 4 inch screen makes the whole interface easily accessible with just your thumb, making your photo-taking experience easier than with the bigger phones we’re now used to that come north of 4.5 inches. The touch-screen is also very nice to interact with, with tough, but very responsive glass making you want to just swipe around the screen if you’ve got nothing to do.
All in all, I loved the 808 PureView. It’s the best camera I have ever used, period. If you were thinking of getting a semi-pro camera and a new phone, the 808 is a serious option for both categories, combined into one, neat, streamlined device. For a more full description of specs and technical stuff, check out gsmarena
Here are a few samples of photos I shot with my 808, which I believe make the best review for this phone
That’s in a port in Limassol, part of the Abou Merhi Cruise