No secret? The Lebanese elections delay

Nayla Tueni

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Everyone hopes parliamentary elections are postponed and implicitly request it whether they are politicians of different affiliations and perspectives, parties, the government, the sects, security leaderships, surrounding countries and perhaps even decision makers’ capitals.

However, they all announce the opposite and insist that the elections be held on time as the constitution stipulates. But the inevitability of postponement is no longer a concealed secret. Interior Minister Marwan Charbel has frankly announced it by saying it was his own intuition. He did not say it was his wish that elections be postponed because extending the cabinet’s term means extending his term as minister.

Decision makers’ countries prefer stability over instability and that is why they accept extension and renewal for those who desire them. This maintains the safety of their citizens in Beirut and their UNIFIL soldiers whom they view as “Hezbollah” hostages in the South. This also protects their journalists and diplomats heading to Damascus through Beirut.

Paralyzed parliament

Surrounding countries, probably Syria mostly, prefer that the current cabinet remains as it provides different economic and political services for them. The currently paralyzed parliament, due to the divisions between the March 8 and March 14 coalitions and its inability to make any decision, also suits them. Perhaps other regional countries also prefer to maintain the status quo until the Syrian situation and other tense situations in the region are clarified.

Lebanon’s domestic situation, which develops according to the Syrian rhythm, currently seems stagnant except for consultations that seem incapable of reaching real agreements. The situation also suffers from financial and economic regression that imposes on all politicians to spend wisely and prevents them from properly spending on electoral campaigns. There is what seems like an implicit collusion between the March 8 and March 14 coalitions to end efforts aiming to agree on a new electoral law. Or perhaps it is not possible to agree on a new electoral law. In both cases, there is an implicit postponement under technical excuses which in fact are political par excellence as there is no Syrian tutelage and no Taif Accord or Doha Agreement to finalize the decision this time.

Bitter reality

Parties are satisfied with their current shares and are implicitly afraid that a new imposed law may deprive them of interests they could have achieved if a law that suits them had been adopted. Independent deputies prefer this extension because there are no guarantees for most of them that they would be re-elected. Only few reject this bitter reality and display boredom or rather disgust of this reality that once again harms the constitution bases since extending the parliament’s term will include extending positions of leadership, ministries, security and perhaps diplomacy among others. This will demolish democratic bases and show Lebanon as similar to previous Arab regimes after it was a pioneer in democracy.

The current dilemma is how the extension will be directed and in who has the courage to announce this desire. Perhaps time is enough to resolve this after all constitutional deadlines pass. But directing such a decision is still required. Maybe once again, all eyes are on Ain al-Tineh where he who knows the rules of the game very well resides. Perhaps he will voice his disappointment, call on a sub-parliamentary committee to reach an agreement among different parties and execute the required direction.

This article was first published in Annahar on Feb. 25, 2013

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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