One Year of Presidency in Lebanon – A Twitter Discussion Analysis

The Sample

The following analysis is based on a sample of 11,919 tweets extracted using Twitter’s API. The search term for this sample is  #سنة_من_عمر_وطن  which is the  “one year from a country’s life” hashtag launched by the President’s movement(s). Twitter’s Search API is focused on relevance and not completeness. This means that some Tweets and users may be missing from search results. Unfortunately, it is not easy to determine the total number of tweets for this hashtag. However, we can roughly estimate this number to be between 20 to 30% of the total number of tweets for this hashtag.

 

Tweets have been grouped by cluster using the Clauset-Newman-Moore algorithm using NodeXL.

Almost Complete Absence of the March 14 Component

The most noticeable aspect of the discussion is the almost total absence of politicians of March 14. Saad Hariri was mentioned by some users but did not tweet himself (as least in our representative sample). Samir Geagea and Walid Joumblatt did not appear in the sample.

 

In fact, we double-checked Samir Geagea’s profile, and it looks like he never tweeted regarding the end of the first year of the presidency.

 

Only a very small group of people (9 users in our sample) attacked the regime and its relation with Hezbollah. Two other groups of 20 users (total) sarcastically commented on the President’s answers to the journalists.

 

The logical explanation for this behavior is the extreme polarization of the Lebanese society. In such cases of strong polarization, people from politically competing groups don’t use the same hashtags or join the discussion. This explains their almost total absence.

 

The Overwhelming Joy of Followers

The hashtag was launched by the pro-President movement. It is therefore logical to have an overwhelming presence of pro-President users tweeting and using the hashtag.

 

Pro-President users are not however a tight crowd, i.e. a close community. The largest group of tweeters is 493 users tweeting 2056 times. This group does not include a notable politician, not even the President.

 

A dismantled community

The fact that the largest pro-Aounists group of tweeters is leaderless could be interpreted as a symptom of leadership crisis.

 

This is also shown in the  way pro-President groups are divided:

  • A leaderless group (493 users, 2056 tweets)
  • A President-Bassil-Kanaan-Jamil el Sayyed group (96 users, 269 tweets)
  • The official account for the Presidency (77 users, 125 tweets)
  • An Alain Aoun group (57 users, 69 tweets)

While many bridges connect the Kanaan-Bassil-Sayyed group (Kanaan being the most retweeted) to the main group of fans, the connections between this group and the Alain Aoun group are almost non-existant (5 in total).

 

Part of the Pro-President group is discussing with the Kanaan group (224 incoming connections and 142 outgoing connections) while other users from this group are discussing with Alain Aoun (52 connections and 35 outgoing connections). An explanation would be that, while the President’s fans are all happy with the “successes” of the first year of presidency, they look divided in terms of affiliation.

Hezbollah’s Support

It is rare not to see Hezbollah’s fans join political discussions on Twitter. In the case of the presidency’s hashtag, we notice some very strong support from Hezbollah’s users with tweets about the alliance between President Aoun and Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.

 

The Importance of the Role of Mr. Gebran Bassil

While the discussion was primarily centered around the presidency, it is important to mention that a discussion about the positive role (as a supporter of the Hezbollah) and another one about the negative role of Gebran Bassil (corruption) was taking place.

 

Even though only a few users discussed the role of Mr. Gebran Bassil, this shows that he is a major concern (positive or negative) to many citizen.

 

Suleiman Frangieh Supporters

Finally, the most important aspect of the debate is probably the fact that the second largest clique in the discussion is a group with several discussion “mayors”, the most important two being Suleiman Frangieh supporters, Sleiman Frangieh (note that this is a different Suleiman Frangieh – @avsl_frangieh) and Georges Bou Nassif (@georgesbnassif). These users challenge the so called “success” by asking “which country are you talking about?”

Independents and Journalists, like Mariam al Bassam (New TV) and Yazbeck Wehbé (LBC), are also part of the debate against the “happy ones”.

The absence or at least very small involvement of people from the Future Movement, the Lebanese Forces and the Kataeb is noticeable.

 

As a result, we suggest that the real skirmish today is between the President’s supporters and Mr. Suleiman Frangieh’s supporters, while other Christians and ex-14 March groups are taking a distant neutral and silent stance from the joy or the frustrations of the first year of Presidency.