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Ibrahim Kanaan, Michel Murr, and Allegations of Corruption

June 14, 2009

The most recent allegation of corruption and vote buying in the Lebanese elections are directed against Ibrahim Kanaan, a lawyer and MP in Aoun’s bloc from the Northern Metn.  Ghada Eid, on her New TV program al-Fesad (”Corruption”), exposes a scheme of vote buying gone awry that could tarnish the image of the Free Patriotic Movement as a leading reform current in Lebanon.  Essentially, if the FPM’s domestic reform agenda during the elections could be summed up in a phrase it would be “anti-corruption”.  Thus, it is particularly embarrassing for one of its prominent MPs to be singled out for vote buying in the wake of a disappointing election.

On Ghada Eid’s program a man by the name of Nabil Fala claimed that he worked as a fixer for Kanaan in the elections and delivered him 400 votes in the Metn.  However, Fala claims that Kanaan subsequently refused to pay him the money due for this service.  After interviewing Fala, Eid spoke with Ibrahim Kanaan via the telephone.  Kanaan began by shouting and attacking Eid ad hominem and the level of discussion deteriorated to an embarrassingly low level.  The Youtube clip is here.

Kanaan and his supporters are portraying the New TV allegations as a response to a piece run by Orange TV on Michel Murr and threats he allegedly issued against a Syrian Catholic priest.  You can view the OTV clip here and read a transcript in al-Akhbar here.  The video consists of a voice recording of Michel Murr insinuating to a Syrian Catholic priest that unless the priest mobilizes support for Murr in the election he will instruct the Minister of Defense (Murr’s son) to arrest Syrian Catholics “for the crime of embezzlement, for some crime or another”.

Frankly I don’t buy that Ghada Eid’s piece is a deliberate response to the OTV piece on Murr.  Her program has targeted corruption in both the Majority and Opposition Coalitions in the past.  And if not for Kanaan’s outburst the incident would not have received the attention that it has.  These are the first two high profile allegations of corruption during the elections beyond the vague claims about the influence of foreign money.  I expect that during the next few weeks similar claims against other political leaders will come to light.  In the end, both incidents are a testament to the ability of the media to serve as a watchdog against corruption and call popular attention to the abuse of power.

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