Thursday, 16 April 2009

Armenian vote

The BBC has an interesting piece on the Armenian-Lebanese:

In the upcoming parliamentary election in June, the main Armenian political party, Tashnak, looks set to play kingmaker.

The vote of the 150,000-strong Armenian community may sway the outcome of the bitter and close race between the pro-Western government and the opposition led by Hezbollah, a Shia group backed by Syria and Iran.

In the run-up to the election, politicians from both blocs have been fighting for the Armenian votes.

But of the three Armenian parties, Tashnak enjoys most support and it has already made its choice, joining the Hezbollah-led alliance.

"What makes us strong is our unity. That's how we survive as a community, that's how we preserve our identity - and that's why I'll vote with everyone else," Mr Havatian says.

But voting for the opposition is also highly unusual for the Armenian community, which has traditionally gone with the government, not against it.

In Lebanon's confessional political system, Armenians - like other major religious and ethnic communities, have an assigned number of seats in parliament.

For years, these seven seats were always won by the Tashnak Party.

But in 2000, a new law backed by Prime Minister Rafik Hariri redrew the electoral map of Beirut, dividing the Armenian neighbourhoods among districts with Sunni Muslim majorities.

As a result the Tashnak party lost seats to lesser-known Armenians who supported the Sunni Muslim prime minister.

"We were forced to go to the opposition," says Tashnak MP Hagop Pakradounian. "We simply cannot trust the government anymore."

For the Tashnak party and its supporters, the June election is a chance to re-establish its parliamentary foothold.

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