The 2005 demonstrations succeeded in influencing public opinion to place greater emphasis on Lebanese independence and sovereignty, and established clear political lines of demarcation from the 8 March Alliance that was advocating for a more pro-Syrian strategy in dealing with the country’s political turmoil.
The demonstrations therefore helped to segregate Lebanese society into two distinct camps – 8 and 14 March. They consolidated vertical, partisan alliances between certain parts of civil society and their sectarian, political counterparts; and also paved the way to further internationalise Lebanon’s domestic scene through the establishment of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL).
Since 2005, Lebanese political leaders have exploited existential rhetoric to play on communities’ political or sectarian fears, glorifying themselves as the solution and inciting a kind of ‘collective hypnosis’ or ‘communal delusion’. This has played out politically within the parameters of the prevailing 8/14 March divide and has contributed to a Manichaean understanding of politics and democracy.
In the 2005 parliamentary elections, held in the aftermath of the demonstrations, electoral selection was effectively reduced to support for, either the side of the ‘victim’, ie Rafiq al-Hariri’s son Saad, or for the suspected perpetrators. The 2009 elections saw voting in support of either Iranian or Western tutelage over Lebanon. Upcoming 2013 elections are likely to be similarly framed; for example, the 14 March coalition has already begun to label the ballot as ‘fateful’ and a ‘war of elimination’ – including, possibly, for themselves.
Despite the intention of the 2005 demonstrations to highlight domestic priorities and sovereignty in Lebanon, they have, in fact, helped to both polarise and externalise Lebanese politics as a choice between Syria and the West.