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Gerrymandering around only makes a laughing stock of Lebanon’s election

Makram Rabah

Published: Updated:

The gloomy streets of Lebanon and its capital Beirut are slowly starting to transform into a democracy jubilee, as all sides are ramping up their campaigns to secure the votes in the parliamentary elections slated for May 15.

Despite all the signs indicating that the elections will take place, a sense of pessimism and skepticism shrouds the country with an insipid aura which, when examined in depth, reveals the existential crisis Lebanon is undergoing. It is one which cannot be resolved at the ballot box.

In practical terms it is interesting that many of those running in the elections are my friends, and the majority of them share the same view where they cannot commit to confirming or denying that the elections will take place. While they are openly asking for people to vote for them, they themselves are not actually convinced that they might win, and if they do, they are unsure that the ruling establishment will allow them to carry out their supposed reform plans.

Essentially, for any election to serve its purpose, it has to be fair, genuine and transparent. In Lebanon these principals are alien to the political culture and the establishment which has dominated the country for decades. Genuine change under the present conditions is difficult (with some saying impossible) and this is largely due to a number of factors which renders change through elections futile. Chiefly amongst them is the proportional representation law which these elections are to be conducted under.

By gerrymandering districts and abusing its power, the Lebanese political establishment has the ability to control the final elections result, leaving May 15 to become an intermural sports event between the ruling elite themselves who stand to gain or lose a few seats.

In real terms, expecting fairness and equality from such an election law is similar to going to a casino with rigged slot machines and expecting to win. It is something that happens only when the house and, in this case, the ruling establishment, allows.

Consequently, under this law the forces of change from those born from the October 17 2019 public protests have no chance of winning in the upcoming elections. Mainly, this is because they lack the logistical depth to garner the vote, but more importantly they have failed to convince the wider Lebanese that they are a credible substitute to the ruling establishment.

The opposition have failed to grasp that their murky stand on Hezbollah and its Iranian weapons are the only things that can muster enough cross-sectarian support to make an impact at the polls, argues Makram Rabah. (File photo: Reuters))
The opposition have failed to grasp that their murky stand on Hezbollah and its Iranian weapons are the only things that can muster enough cross-sectarian support to make an impact at the polls, argues Makram Rabah. (File photo: Reuters))

In a typical revolutionary fashion, the forces of opposition believe that their anti-establishment status and their supposed commitment to reform is enough to get the masses to vote for them. In fact, they have failed to grasp that their murky stand on Hezbollah and its Iranian weapons are the only things that can muster enough cross-sectarian support to make an impact at the polls. While this might not be enough to win a big block in parliament, it will concentrate the focus on the cancerous nature of the unholy alliance between Hezbollah’s weapons and the corrupt politicians it protects.

As it stands many groups who brand themselves as progressive, have for the sake of unity accepted alliances with figures and groups that view Hezbollah as a resistance movement, going as far as to deny the militia’s involvement in any of the corrupt dealings which bankrupted the state.

Such cardinal sins have secured the fate of these elections before the ballots are cast. By accepting to run in the elections under such conditions the opposition gullibly thinks that reform is possible in a state whose sovereignty is desecrated by an Iranian proxy who has deployed its fighters in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, all in the service of Tehran and its expansionist project.

Ballots alone cannot reform a political system which is willing to kill and steal to stay in power. Many of those candidates that are asking for people’s vote have failed to understand this. While some have bravely named Hezbollah as a source of menace, they did not take that extra step to form a national front to adopt a single policy agenda: Sovereignty as a gateway to reform.

Be that as it may, the real burden of responsibility does not fall on the opposition, but on the political establishment that has used and abused power and bankrupted a once prosperous country, while insolently claiming to serve and protect their sects and parties.

Moreover, while the Lebanese who choose not to vote on May 15 might have their reasons, their failure to hold those accountable for their many crimes makes them willing accomplices and allows for Hezbollah and the political elite to claim false legitimacy.

As long as the people have doubts that this election or any future democratic events might be postponed, such as the presidential elections in October, then their country is not doing well. As long as the populous think that their votes do not count then they are helping perpetuate a tragedy of their own making.

May 15 is not simply a day for casting ballots, but is the opportunity to start a long and arduous fight to reclaim Lebanon’s true sovereignty from its enemies, both domestic and foreign.

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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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