The results in Lebanon's parliamentary elections Sunday come as somewhat of a surprise to observers and participants alike who expected Hezbollah's March 8th movement to increase its clout and shift the political balance away from the pro-Western March 14th movement. That did not happen, and now many commentators, such as Paul Raushenbush at Beliefnet, are touting the "Obama effect" as a possible driving force, following President Obama's speech to the Muslim world from Cairo last week.
It seeems as though an American President may be affecting the Iranian elections again, this time positively. From the recent polls it looks like Ahmadinejad is in trouble.
... Likewise in Lebanon. ... We don't know the exact effect that Obama is having on these elections. But it appears from the 2004 results that the Cheney/Bush presidency bolstered the enemies of America. Four years later it looks like the Obama's presidency may do the opposite.
Likewise, the Atlantic's Marc Ambinder entertains the "Obama effect" possibility, but suspends an absolute judgment on what is no doubt an unquantifiable phenomenon.
Today, the results of Lebanon's election may or may not be a referendum on relations with the West, with Israel, and the foreign policy ideals held by Obama. But they're definitely good news for the White House, and if there's anything to be gleaned about momentum in Shiite politics, it's moving in a direction that Obama probably likes far better than the alternative.
However, others are more skeptical of the implications of the March 14th movement's success, as well as what bearing Obama may have had on it. Dr. Omri Nir, a Lebanese political expert and non-faculty professor at Hebrew University and Ben-Gurion University, tells the Jerusalem Post that it's far too early to make any conclusions. Nir also goes on to dismiss the notion that Obama had any real effect on the election:
US President Barack Obama shouldn't take credit for the result of the Lebanese elections, said Nir. "I didn't see an impact of the speech [from Cairo] on the elections campaign," he added.
Nir attributed the unexpected outcome to internal politics among Lebanon's Maronite Christians. Lebanese citizens usually cast their vote based on the people running and not according to party lines, he explained.
As for Iranians, who go to the ballot box Friday to decide the fate of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a new poll reveals that very few in Iran view the United States favorably, despite Obama, according to the AP. However, it may not even matter. Reformist challenger Mir-Hussein Mousavi has all but closed Ahmadinejad's lead in the past month, according to the Telegraph, and, as The Nation's Robert Dreyfuss reports from Tehran, the country is awash in a "Green Wave" (the color associated with Mousavi's campaign).
Interestingly, an American Security Project report released in late April concluded that the "Obama effect" on the Muslim world was falling while global terrorism was on the rise. From the Huffington Post's earlier report:
As for the sanguinely viewed "Obama Effect" on the Muslim World, the report laments that US approval dropped following the Israeli-Gaza incursion earlier this year. And, notably, the report states that, "Unfortunately, only 21% of Afghans believe that an Obama presidency will make a positive difference in their country, compared to 16%, who think it will make things worse." However, more hopeful data is also cited that indicates America's tarnished record from the past eight years is not beyond repair. Thus, the "Obama Effect" is not an outrightly delusional mis-perception, but there is a dearth of evidence to suggest it has yet to have any meaningful impact in the Muslim world.