October 23, 2007

Lebanon politics and Facebook

Lebanese politics notoriously are cumbersome and convoluted. Monday, squabbling politicians again delayed a decision on choosing a new president, this time putting it off until Nov. 12. The deadline before the country is hurtled into a constitutional crisis is Nov. 24, when President Emile Lahoud is scheduled to step down. But while the Lebanese have been slow to pick a president, they have been quick to take on new fads — especially Facebook. The social networking Web site rapidly has taken on a life of its own among the outgoing and chatty Lebanese. Lebanese have headed to Facebook with enthusiasm. The Web site’s Lebanon network includes 125,000 members, about one for every 32 residents of the country. For comparison’s sake, Israel has about 90,000 Facebook members, or one for every 70 residents, whereas gigantic Egypt has 180,000, or one for every 437 residents.

Lebanese Facebook members include grandmothers, scuba divers and sports-car drivers. Neither men nor women are too shy to show off exposed bellies, sultry pouts or bare shoulders. Now one of the main contenders for the Lebanese presidency, Nassib Lahoud, has brought his candidacy to Facebook. His online group, “Nassib Lahoud for President,” has drawn 2,500 members.

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