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Election 2016 Reactions: Lessons from Lebanon

By Ashley Halabi | November 21, 2016

Shock waves spread throughout the world when results displaying Donald Trump as the new president of the United States emerged on Tuesday night. One week earlier, on October 31st, many Lebanese citizens experienced similar frustration when the parliament elected General Michel Aoun as the president of Lebanon after the presidential seat was left vacant for more than 2 years.

Since the two events are strikingly similar and proximate, Americans could take some guidance from their Lebanese counterparts who are in the same situation- or better yet - from Lebanese-Americans who were disappointed by the results of democracy twice in the span of a week.

Even though there are endless differences between the two presidencies and the systems in which they operate, many similarities can be noted from these two events whereby both ended in the election of a controversial president. Many believe that Trump “embodies the nation’s worst flaws, failings and nightmares,” while some think the same of the newly elected Lebanese president who played a major role in the brutal battles of the Lebanese civil war. It is apparent, then, that both countries are now being led into a vague future by a leader that has no clear goals.

Primarily, Americans should accept the fact that a democratic election is never the ideal method to represent every ideology and everyone’s interests. Also, people tend to grow exhausted of the same system and would likely choose a president like Aoun or Trump who gained supporters due to their promise of change. Coincidentally, Aoun promised to tackle issues like economic instability and the refugee crisis in Lebanon which are two of the most important campaign promises Trump had articulated.

Secondly, Lebanon has a parliamentary system in which the members of parliament, who in this case extended their term twice unconstitutionally, chose the president. Therefore, even though Americans weren’t satisfied with a president who was elected by an electoral college when he did not win the popular vote, they should be mindful that their presidential system is still better than the parliamentary one whereby Lebanese people feel that they do not have a say in the final election of their president.

In general, people should acknowledge that America will always be a country that has checks on the executive power, regardless of who controls the legislative body. There is no point in fearing a future with injustice since there will be checks on the president even if Republicans have “taken over”. Similar to this concern, Lebanese people also feared that the country would be controlled by Iran after Aoun’s election since he is an ally of Hezbollah – whose main agenda is set by Syria and Iran. Nevertheless, after 2 years of rejecting the controversial candidate proved to be damaging to the country, Lebanon finally realized that keeping this position filled is necessary to keep the country functioning.  

Therefore, even if some Americans feel they are destined to regress with Republicans in charge, the Lebanese perspective would be that any president, irrespective of his/her policies and ideology, will allow the country to move, regardless of the direction of this movement.

Democrats today should recognize that while they were satisfied with the accomplishments made in the past 8 years, many Americans were not. For this reason, those who oppose Trump should admit that democracy entails accepting other people’s opinion especially if those people share the same country and nationality. In the end, how can a country grow and progress when half of its population believes they are right while rejecting any form of communication with the other half?

Moreover, it is important not to judge a president before he is given a chance to prove himself, especially if that president is as indecisive as Donald Trump. Although Lebanon is far from experienced on these matters, Americans can still learn from it. Lebanese people managed to overcome political vacuum by electing a president who, though far from qualified, can allow the country to move forward even if the path he decides to take is not unanimously approved.


Ashley Halabi is a first year MIA student at GPS, and a staff writer for JIPS. Her track is International Politics, where she focuses on human rights issues. Before attending GPS, Ashley was a writer for her university newspaper in Lebanon.


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