Promises they can't keep

Some FNC candidates make promises because they don't understand the institution, an Arabic-language writer says. Other items in today's digest: Hizbollah, the Arab League, and Christian minorities.

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FNC candidate, please 'Know thyself' well

The lofty promises made by candidates running for the UAE's Federal National Council (FNC) during the 2006 elections are still impressed on the collective memory of Emiratis, though none of those pledges has been honoured, Emirati writer Khaled Al Dhanhani said in the Dubai-based newspaper Al Bayan.

"As soon as the FNC results came out … silence became the best friend of some of those who were elected," he noted.

We are witnessing the same thing happen in the lead-up to the FNC elections this month, with candidates making "very unrealistic" - not to say fantasy - pledges to attract voters, the writer went on.

Such promises as Emiratising jobs, eliminating unemployment, redressing the demographic imbalance and distributing free housing to Emiratis are, however important, beyond the powers of the FNC.

"True, the FNC is the fourth power among the five main powers listed under the UAE constitution, which are: the Federal Supreme Council; the UAE President and Vice President; the Federal Cabinet; the Federal National Council; and the Federal Judiciary … But every organ has its own defined powers, and the FNC's are limited …"

It is the lack of understanding of the nature of that role that leads some candidates to make promises they can't keep.

What Hizbollah's friends say in private

The Lebanese prime minister, Najib Mikati, is often accused of being "Hizbollah's puppet." But he is more opposed to the Shiite armed party than was previously thought, columnist Abdul Rahman Al Rashed wrote in the London-based newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

In leaked minutes of a meeting with the US ambassador to Lebanon, Mr Mikati has reportedly described Hizbollah as "a cancerous tumour".

"Sure, this may be the general Sunni stance that Mr Mikati had echoed," the columnist said. But what about Lebanon's No 2 Shiite leader, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who told the US ambassador how happy he was when Israel raided Hizbollah in 2006?

And what about the flamboyant Christian leader Michel Aoun, Hizbollah's good friend, who told Americans that he always keeps a close eye on Hizbollah?

"Of course, we don't need Wikileaks documents to know how the opposition ranks in Lebanon really feel," the writer said. "But here's what the leaked correspondence does: it confirms that there is an across-the-board antagonism towards Hizbollah, with Shiite, Sunni and Christian leaders feeling the same way about it."

Hizbollah must be conscious of the true feelings of all these factions. And it has only one right thing to do: abandon its weapons and start to work as a civilian political party.

Time for all to quit the Arab League

On his first day in office, the secretary general of the Arab League, Nabil El Arabi, must have thought that it was time for the League to break with its sluggish past and start moving to the rhythm of people's interests, Daoud Al Sharyan suggested in the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat.

But his cautious manoeuvres so far betray fear and reticence. Arab countries have condemned the violence in Syria, and the head of the Arab body was expected to adopt a similarly harsh stance. But alas, his was quite disappointing.

Mr El Arabi attended his meeting with the Syrian president haunted by the fear of a second international intervention. He reiterated assurances that the Arab League would never be a passageway for decisions against any Arab country.

"Mr El Arabi was in no way required to speak of an international intervention in Syria, for no one wants to see a repeat of Iraq- and Libya-like scenarios. But, it was unacceptable that he would insist on a solution that guarantees the regime's continuity while Syrians and the rest of the world are calling for its ousting."

"When the Arab League becomes an instrument to justify repression, it must be done away with. The solution now isn't to suspend Syria's membership at the League, but for all the Arabs to withdraw from the League and form another body that bans violence and guarantees human dignity," the writer concluded.

Region's Christians have nothing to fear

In an article for the Lebanese Assafir daily, columnist Satea Noureddin said it has been a constant in modern Arab history that the revolutions that have reshaped most Arab countries since the withdrawal of European colonialism have led to successive waves of liquidation or displacement of Christians.

With the exception of Lebanon, most transformations towards independence contributed to the persecution of Christians who found themselves forced to flee their home countries.

The Israeli occupation, Islamic terrorism and successive wars drove many Christians from the region. Those who remain live now in fear that the pro-democracy Arab uprisings will turn on them. But what is unique this time around is that they don't see it as a reason for departure, especially given the important role they played in the Egyptian revolution. Assaults on churches have been considerably reduced and they feel more protected by the ruling Muslim institutions.

Egypt's revolution was a turning point. It was followed by the Syrian uprising that may at first have seemed purely Islamic and alarming for the Christian minority, but soon revealed itself as an advanced, unprejudiced project that serves the interests of all Syrians and guarantees their political and religious freedom.

* Digest compiled by the Translation Desk