The dilemma of corruption in Lebanon

Ali Al-Amin

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It is no secret that the recent parliamentary elections in Lebanon have brought no qualitative change whatsoever in terms of parliamentary representation as the parties represented in the new parliament are the same as the previous one. One of the few changes is that figures who are known for their apparent loyalty to the Syrian regime and Hezbollah have become MPs yet this does not alter anything because authority in Lebanon does not come from the size of the ruling forces within parliament, but comes from a source that is outside the parliament and institutions of power.

Non-parliamentary power

In Lebanon, having a parliamentary bloc that is twice the size of Hezbollah’s bloc does not mean that you would have a say in decision making proportionate to your bloc’s size. For instance, Hezbollah does not have more than 15 MPs, yet the party plays a leading role in decision making at the level of the government and parliament.

In Lebanon, power comes from institutions outside the state as the latter possesses a weak structure when compared to the power of the statelet. This latter power is coercive and not democratic and it’s not an outcome of any political balances resulting from elections or voluntary political agreements. Power here is imposed on the state and its institutions within a context that does not resemble the usual models adopted in ordinary states, whether they are democratic or dictatorial.

In fact, one of the conditions for the continuity of such a model in Lebanon is the necessity of having this representation of different parties in parliament. Yet, this representation is but a formality that does not allow these members to become real partners in the management of public affairs. This partnership is limited to non-sovereign matters and no say in security, foreign policy or war-related affairs.

The partnership here strictly entails issues related to sharing general public functions or providing certain services or partnership that’s based on corruption which provides the needed strength and protection for the statelet’s authority over the state since corruption is a source of energy and an excuse for the existence of the statelet.

Indeed, the state-statelet duo cannot survive or extend without the consolidation of corruption since the first objective condition to fight corruption in any country is the existence of an authority that has the sole right to use force and that bears its responsibility and that can be held accountable by citizens.

In Lebanon, such an authority is almost absent if we are not to say completely absent. The Lebanese government as a constitutional institution with executive power is incapable of monopolizing the power of violence and is even incapable of saying that it is the one that bears responsibility for managing the security and military affairs in the state.

The monster of corruption

This reality is the pretext used to evade the responsibilities of the governing constitutional institutions as it creates gaps on the level of authority. The absence of responsibility and accountability and the incompetence, which is maliciously maintained, unleash the monster of corruption, with the encouragement, motivation, and partnership of the power of the statelet which wants to convey to the Lebanese people the message that their state is not qualified to govern.

What is more surprising is how Hezbollah launched a campaign against state corruption. The party’s secretary general promoted this campaign during the recent parliamentary elections.

This is surprising because throughout its time in the executive and legislative authority, Hezbollah forged alliances and agreements with different political powers in Lebanon based on the rule that says “turn a blind eye to my weapons and do as you please with matters of the state.” What confirms this arrangement is that Hezbollah has never launched a battle against corruption. It has always talked about corruption issues worth billions of dollars involving a number of state officials, but it never took any action to pursue these allegations until the end. These files have in fact always been used as a means for extortion to keep opponents silent over the statelet’s project and domination.

This does not mean that Hezbollah is not involved in corruption. It used its weapon when the Lebanese government decided to cut off a branch of its private communication network, while it did not do anything when it witnessed – that is if it hadn’t supervised – corruption in the government.

Porosity of borders

The Lebanese are waiting for the approach that will be adopted by Hezbollah to fight corruption that has exhausted the Lebanese economy and public finances and increased public debt. They shall watch how smuggling activities that have made the borders open to criminal activities under the eyes of Hezbollah and the security bodies, which have surrendered to the idea that they are not the first decision makers on Lebanese soil or at the illegal border crossings, will be stopped. Furthermore, Hezbollah has weaved most of its alliances in power and in parliamentary elections with parties and forces whom most of them are suspected to have been involved in corruption, if not fully drowned in corrupt deals.

The Lebanese people’s wishes that Hezbollah succeeds in its campaign against corruption are because despair controls the society which lost hope that the authority, in its current composition, can limit the spread of corruption. Wishes are one thing and reality is another. Reality stipulates that reform and the fight against corruption should be based on a major pillar which is the state – a state that does not accept the existence of any authority over it, whatever the justification for its existence may be.

This article is also available in Arabic.


Ali Al-Amin is a journalist based in Lebanon and is the Editor of news site Janoubia.com.

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