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LEBANON: Facebook for president!

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Lebanese politics are notoriously cumbersome and convoluted. Today, squabbling politicians yet 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.

But while they’ve been slow to pick a president, they’ve been super quick to take on new fads, especially Facebook, the social networking website which has rapidly taken on a life of its own among the outgoing and chatty Lebanese.

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Lebanese have headed to Facebook with an enthusiasm bordering on the extreme. The website’s Lebanon network has 125,000 members, about one for every 32 residents of Lebanon. By comparison, Israel has about 90,000 Facebookers, or one for every 67 residents, while gigantic Egypt has 180,000 or one for every 444 residents.

Lebanese Facebookers include grandmothers, scuba divers and sports car drivers. Neither men nor women are too shy to show off bare bellies, sultry pouts or naked shoulders.

One of the main contenders for the Lebanese presidency, Nassib Lahoud, has even brought his candidacy to Facebook. His group, ‘Nassib Lahoud for President,’ has drawn 2,500 members. I caught up with him for an interview in his East Beirut office this morning. After 45 minutes of serious talk about Lebanon’s politics, he smiled with glee when the subject of Facebook came up.

‘I guess we Lebanese,’ he said, ‘are very extroverted.’

— Borzou Daragahi in Beirut


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