Lebanon: In the absence of a nation, why have elections?

Eyad Abu Shakra
Eyad Abu Shakra
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One of the worst fates that befalls a nation is when both the rulers and the ruled become so confused to the extent they cease to differentiate between cause and effect; and thus everyone decides to ignore the truth until they reach the conclusion that lying is the best means of co-existence.

Lebanon is a striking example of that. The absurd argument on a new electoral law is nothing more than ignoring one of the many facts to the extent of resorting to obvious lying.

It is rumored that postponing the upcoming parliamentary elections in June is totally unacceptable. Everyone is against postponing the elections!

Something else which is also “taboo” is holding the elections based on the “1960 law” which stipulates random order of constituencies based on districts. Its divisions are not logically justifiable due to many weird exceptions.

Later, another unacceptable issue emerged following the calculation of possible votes on it in parliament. It is the proportional law. Few months ago, Najib Mikati’s cabinet approved in principle a draft law based on proportional representation – a law President Michel Suleiman prefers over others. This draft law which was approved in principle by a cabinet majority vote and transferred to parliament was inevitably going to be turned down because it is rejected by all parties tactically allied in the March 14 coalition as well as by Walid Jumblatt’s bloc. Although the latter is represented by three ministers in the government, it rejects proportionality. Therefore, it is impossible to pass the proposed draft law in parliament.

Thereafter, what was falsely described as the “Orthodox Proposal” draft law cause more controversy as it further divides the divided by limiting citizens to vote for candidates of their own sect. This proposal means cutting all relations that transcends sectarian interests, undermining co-existence, and opening the door for extremists from each sect to “hijack” their entire sect and separate it from the rest of the country’s components.

The preliminary approval of this draft law was achieved during the meeting of parliamentary subcommittees despite the objection of most Sunni and Druze deputies, as well as a high percentage of Christians, while some Christian leaderships in March 14 tactically surrendered to the outbidding – rather to the blackmail – of the Aounists who consider themselves to be “the most Christian among Christians” in Lebanon although they are the Christian cover for Hezbollah’s policy.

However, it seems that this suicidal draft law which will target the Christians first is also unacceptable because it is rejected by the president and the prime minister on the basis that it contradicts the constitution particularly the article pertaining to “maintaining co-existence” and also on the basis of violating the Taif Accord, which is also part of the constitution. Some say that even Speaker Nabih Berri – a Shiite – is not enthusiastic about launching a battle against Sunnis, Druze and half of the Christians for the sake of a draft law that will eliminate the rest of his electoral basis within the Shiite sect.

In this context, we must note that the reasons Suleiman and Mikati support proportionality are different than those behind Hezbollah’s – the real power behind the current cabinet – and Berri. Suleiman and Mikati, in fact, do not represent a majority within their respective sects, thus, it is in their interest to maintain for themselves a small popular basis which would be eliminated in the absence of proportional representation.

The Shiite alliance’s support of proportionality is actually based on more important considerations. The first and most prominent of which is that the Shiite alliance practices politics in Lebanon supported and served by Hezbollah’s arms. Secondly, the Shiites, demographically speaking, are the fastest growing community in Lebanon. Thirdly, thanks to Iran’s direct and generous support of Hezbollah and the years of Syrian sponsorship of the Amal Movement headed by Berri, the Shiite community are now the richest and most powerful among all other sects, including holding highly influential positions within state institutions. Fourth, the Shiite votes committed to Hezbollah have an influential impact in mixed – in sectarian terms -electoral districts. The impact of these votes was behind the “overblown” number of deputies in Michel Aoun’s bloc. It was this impact that made Aoun become part of Hezbollah’s strategy to dominate Lebanon as part of Iran’s strategy for the region. It is in this light that Aoun’s recent positions and statements regarding Gulf countries must be analyzed. On the other hand, it was somehow surprising to the naive observer when the Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara al-Rai spoke a couple of days ago against “illegitimate arms”. Rai is on very good terms with Aoun, who is a ally of Hezbollah, which is the only Lebanese political group that possesses arms.

During the past few weeks, accusations were made that some parties’ aim of making suggestions and opposing others was to pave way towards postponing the elections.

But, anyway, why is holding the elections a matter so exceptionally important? Is holding the elections an aim on its own? Aren’t the elections a means for the people to voice their aspirations? What is the point of holding the elections if people’s aspirations have become a marginal scene in Lebanon’s political sad realities?

The truth is that there is no consensus among the Lebanese on the country is and what the concept of citizenship must be built on. The speeches of hatred and malice made by demagogues and sectarian parties in every occasion hints that wellbeing of the country is a trivial matter when making decisions. Based on this, it would be absurd to elect deputies who will represent a country that doesn’t exist.

The Lebanese people lived for many years without the need to renew their parliament due to the war that tore their country apart.
Have the Lebanese since then succeeded in immunizing their country against the germs of civil war that is leaking towards them from the cracks of the Lebanese-Syrian borders, or that is rather being pushed towards them by the Syrian regime ... which some Lebanese still bet on its ability to kill and repress its people?

This piece was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Feb. 26, 2013

Eyad Abu Shakra (also written as Ayad Abou-Chakra) began his media career in 1973 with Annahar newspaper in Lebanon. He joined Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in the UK in 1979, occupying several positions including: Senior Editor, Managing Editor, and Head of Research Unit, as well as being a regular columnist. He has several published works, including books, chapters in edited books, and specialized articles, in addition to frequent regular TV and radio appearances.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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