Nayla Tueni's Burden
On Monday night, Nayla Tueni, a striking, 26 year old candidate for Parliament in Beirut, held a campaign event geared to young voters at Club 43, in Gemmayze. Club 43 is an odd venue: it’s a bar, tucked away anonymously on a second floor slightly off the main area of Gemmayze clubs, and it supposedly dates back to an obscure anti-confessionalism society created in 1943. These days, its decor seems to be heavily African-mask oriented, and when you log on to their Wifi, it connects you to Lithuanian Google. Meanwhile, for the hour before Tueni’s talk the manager was holding rolling interviews for a job that evidently required matronly ladies in their fifties, and applicants nearly filled the space awaiting their turn.
By eight PM, however, the room was full of young, intellectual civil society types, and there was Nayla Tueni, only an hour late (which is Lebanese for on time), and looking forward to greeting her peers. The audience was generally encouraging and welcoming, but if the night made one thing clear, it is that Nayla Tueni has a legitimacy problem.
This shouldn’t necessarily be the case. Tueni is the daughter of Gebran Tueni, a prominent and widely respected Lebanese political columnist. The elder Tueni was a vociferous opponent of Syria’s rule in Lebanon, and as such he, and the paper he published, An Nahar, was closely aligned with the pro-independence movement and, subsequently, the March 14 Alliance. When he was assassinated by car bomb, in December 2005, he was immediately hailed as a martyr in the name of freedom. His daughter Nayla, who at the time was a twenty-three year old graduate student, became the managing editor of An Nahar, and, over the years, a relatively prominent anti-Syrian figure in her own right.
But in Lebanon, political dynasties are an old story — the Gemayels, the Frangiehs, the Moawads — and Tueni spent the better part of the evening trying to demonstrate that she was not taking her position lightly.
“One day, I had the idea to write an article to say that I would not run, because I don’t believe in political inheritance,” she said at one point. (She spoke in Arabic; these quotes are from a contemporaneous translation, and may not be 100% precise.) “But then I had the idea that if I can do more as an MP, if I can be an MP and a journalist, then, Why not? Why not?”
Later, she added, “Should I pay the price of the fact that Gebran is my father, and Ghassan” – a columnist and former publisher of An Nahar – “is my grandfather?”
It was a delicate dance. Nayla had to distance herself from the mantle of her father, while simultaneously not doing anything to offend or undermine that legacy – which is, of course, crucial to her campaign. As she put it more than once, “I come from the school that believes in the idea of Gebran Tueni.” (She frequently referred to him by his full name.) And later: “I’m not shy about being the daughter of Gebran Tueni, in fact, I’m proud of it, and if people want to accuse me of that, I am proud to accept it.”
This effort is further complicated by the manner in which Nayla has previously spoken and written about her father’s legacy. (And of course — this should go without saying — by the fact that he was her father, and he was killed when she was 23.) From an October 2008 column called “Our Faith in Their Martyrdom Renewed”:
On this occasion and while the wound is still fresh, due to the tragic events in Lebanon since 2005, we must bow before the blood of the martyrs of the Cedar Revolution and the sovereignty and independence line who were the last group of the true and finalized independence heroes.
From a 2007 interview with NOW Lebanon:
With all due respect to the politicians, we no longer have figures like Gebran who speak clearly and honestly and who are determined to confront. We no longer have figures who don’t have accounts to settle or who aren’t following personal interests.
Meanwhile, her campaign platform consists of 48 princples, which “symbolizes the 48 years lived by my father Gebran before the criminals put an end to his life,” and one of them calls for the construction of a Gebran Tueni Sports Stadium
At Club 43, Tueni took an innovative tack: she attempted to recast her dynasty problem as a youth problem. Citing herself and Samy Gemayel, a 29 year old candidate in the Metn district with a very long political heritage, and with whom Nayla has lately been campaigning, Tueni said, “Young candidates are being dealt with unfairly. Samy Gemayel, he has influence and charisma of his own, not only because of his dad.” She went on, “Sometimes, as youth, we hurt each other because of the attacks about political inheritance. We try to accuse each other when we should give each other a chance.”
What’s not clear is how seriously she is taking this initiative (the blog on her campaign website is still just an empty WordPress template), and whether young voters are buying it.
“How many of you are willing to help and support youth figures that are running for candidacy?” she asked the crowd at Club 43, unprompted, at one point. It was a confusing moment – is this rhetorical? Is she asking for volunteers? – and ultimately three or four hands went up. And then the difficult questions resumed.
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 First Openly Straight Figure Skater Comes Forward
- 2 Brooklyn Man Now Living Entirely Off Own Beard Garden
- 3 “Cra Cra” Now Official Diagnosis in New DSM (DSM-5)
- 4 OfficeMax Marketing Director Struggling to Make Staplers ‘Sexy’ and ‘Conversational’
- 5 Homeless Guy Woos Silicon Valley VCs with Low-Tech Crowdfunding Startup
- 6 Area Man Tailors Life To Be More Relevant To His Hulu Advertisements
- 7 Fan Banging Furiously on Glass Could Be the Difference in Hockey Playoffs
- 8 Survey: 88% of Eagles Fans Too Drunk To Spell Nnamdi Asomugha Last Season
- 9 Attorney Actually Starting to Believe Own Bullshit
- 10 Local Mom Won’t Stop Being First Person to Like Every Goddamn Thing Son Posts to Facebook