The solutions to Lebanon’s woes pose yet more problems

During his speech on May 16, Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah called for seriously addressing and dealing with Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun’s presidential initiative.

“Aoun is trying to provide solutions and I (therefore) urge political parties to seriously look into these solutions and study them and not turn their back on them,” Nasrallah said.

Perhaps the call to participate in seeking solutions appears praiseworthy on the surface considering it expresses a concern, shared by all Lebanese factions, regarding electing a president – a process obstructed by the very people suggesting initiatives to do so!

Aoun introduced his proposal as a look “into the possible solutions to resolve the accumulating constitutional crises and to rescue those involved in the crisis.”

Dealing seriously with Aoun’s suggestions requires that these suggestions be more realistic

Nayla Tueni

His initiative includes four options: Electing a president directly by the people via two phases or conducting a popular referendum that is binding for parliament or having the parliament choose between the two most representative Maronite MPs or holding parliamentary elections prior to electing a president on the basis of a new electoral law that provides equality between Muslims and Christians and according to the constitution and the national charter.

Inapplicable suggestions

If we are to seriously look into these suggestions, as per Sayyid Nasrallah’s request, we’d realize that they are inapplicable unless the Lebanese people agree to amend the constitution. Direct presidential elections require amending the constitution while a national referendum actually violates the system as it cancels out the electoral process, and the same actually applies to having the parliament choose between the two most representative Maronite MPs as such a move cancels the right of many others to run for the presidential post and deprives them of their constitutional rights.

Regarding the fourth option which is holding parliamentarian elections prior to electing a president and on the basis of a new electoral law, perhaps Aoun is well-aware that it is actually his allies who reject an electoral law that provides proper Christian representation. He’s also aware of how much his allies benefit from the current electoral law which is based on proportionality. If that hadn’t been the case, they would have accepted his previous proposals. Perhaps Aoun also realizes that all political parties in the country are unwilling to accept a parliamentarian electoral law that alters the current reality, alliances and affiliations. Therefore, agreeing on a new parliamentarian electoral law, adopting it and then holding the elections according to it, will not only prolong presidential vacuum but will also further affect political life and push toward the deterioration of institutions.

Dealing seriously with Aoun’s suggestions requires that these suggestions be more realistic and it also requires taking into consideration supreme national interests as well as being humble when making them. It also requires making some mutual concessions in addition to committing to the constitution, or else Lebanon will go back to how it was during the civil war – a country where the law of the jungle reigns supreme and where each party acts as it pleases within its area of control.

This article was first published in al-Nahar on May 22, 2015.

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Nayla Tueni is one of the few elected female politicians in Lebanon and of the two youngest. She became a member of parliament in 2009 and following the assassination of her father, Gebran, she is currently a member of the board and Deputy General Manager of Lebanon’s leading daily, Annahar. Prior to her political career, Nayla had trained, written in and managed various sections of Annahar, where she currently has a regular column. She can be followed on Twitter @NaylaTueni
 

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