Elections, Lebanon, Reform

Lucky ’13?: Living With Lebanon’s Watered-Down Electoral Law

The ambitious draft law published by the Boutros Commission is officially on ice. The law actually passed by Lebanon’s parliament is a sad shadow of the original, having been stripped of some of the most potentially far-reaching reforms, such as lowering the voting age, allowing Lebanese living abroad to cast absentee ballots, mandating a fixed proportion of female candidates, and replacing the majoritarian representation system with proportional representation.

Of all the proposed reforms, this last one would have been the most seismic. By doing away with the simple first-past-the-post system which all but guarantees the permanence of Lebanon’s hegemonic and highly sectarian parties, proportional representation would have opened the doors of Parliament to policy-based startups and independent candidates. New voices, new faces, and new surnames would finally grace the local news sections of Lebanon’s papers. This was the idea, at least.

So much for fantasy. What we got instead — assuming that our dysfunctional Parliament will even be able to apply the reforms that were passed — was a commitment to allow anyone to vote using their ID card or passport (rather than the special voting card), the creation of an independent electoral council which will supposedly monitor campaign finance and media behavior, and, of course, a promise to plan ahead so that 2013’s elections will more closely resemble the vision articulated by the Boutros Commission.

Marcel Ghanem interviewed Interior Minister Ziad Baroud on Kalam al-Nas last Thursday night, and it was all the young lawyer could do to put on a brave face and pretend that things would really be different this time around. I spoke recently with a member of the Aoun-led Change & Reform Bloc, who confirmed to me that none of the major players (Hizbullah, Amal, Mustaqbal, PSP, etc.) had been ready or willing to allow the most far-reaching reforms to pass. “Politics, at the end of the day,” he sighed, “is about control. And in a democracy — even a dysfunctional non-democracy like Lebanon’s —  the name of the game is elections. Lose control of the elections, and you will lose the game.”

Discussion

3 thoughts on “Lucky ’13?: Living With Lebanon’s Watered-Down Electoral Law

  1. In spring we will go to the polling stations. Once again we will have to chose between the good (?), the bad and the ugly. Once again we will chose our representatives in a very demo-cratic way. In fact we will once again demon-stratify the political pyramid. We will show case to the world a demo of our worst angles.

    Some questions that come to mind: how to avoid in the near future being manipulated by politicians and pseudo-politicians, what kind of politicians do we need so we are not manipulated by foreign countries and embassies, what is the role of the media of the intelligentsia of the magi and false prophets etc. Although one might fear to state the obvious I still think that we should go on repeating and restating the obvious because…. Le takrar bi aallem Le hmAr.

    I will not repeat the mantra about taifiya being the root of all our problems because whatever bright political and democratic ideas we can find to get rid of the many manifestations of this malady, I think that we will not, for the time being, and given the surge of tadayon and taifya worldwide, be able to change the fact that people aggregate along religious lines; my problem is with the cement that is used to hold each group together in this time of geo-politico-religious turm…oil. I have no issue with tadayon I have a problem with segregation, sectarianism, hatred and their root cause: greed and fear.

    Another question: how to stop those costume-ed, neckty-ed, turban-ed, robe-ed, dishdasha-ed and tiara-ed magi from spreading hatred and vengefulness in our minds?

    As for the press, the rubbish mantras some of those pushers of doom write (and show and say) and regurgitate repeatedly and ad nauseam can only mean, that we are addicted to… well their rubbish, and that it is all that we need, and they are gracefully, wittily and maliciously nourishing the roots of our malady.

    More:

    As for the TABLE…

    I think it should not be round. It should not be. It should not happen before the trumpets of hatred are silenced. It should not happen before we can hear politicians and the press speak pragmatically about the different political and economical stakes. Then and only then we will benefit from this plank on four legs.

    Still if it should happen then I can only see it as a way of saving face for some protagonists and their puppeteers for they need to turn up their sleeves and jump in the arena to prepare for the demo-cratic process of elections.

    One opinion: If we do not once and for all understand where our roots are, what kind of people we are, and why we do repeat the same hysteria every time the big powers shift their alliances, we will for ever and ever rework the same schizophrenic delusions of high expectations and false pregnancies.

    Moreover, although we do know the Great men of Lebnan al akhdar (ma fi metlo bil aalam, etc.), and we all sing their praise, I do hate the fact that we never heed what they have said, and we remain in the making: virtual individuals, a virtual people in a virtual country, and a virtual nation for virtual citizens… we might all of us be still at the pre-conception stage, sterile spermatozoa thinking we are perfection incarnate!!!!

    Well it is high time each Lebanese Quidam frees his-her-oneself from the tight container each body is and reach out to understand the woes and problems of others so we can achieve a better ‘aysh lebnani (Sorry but I hate to use aysh moushtarak, and aysh wahed.)

    Regards

    Posted by Elizabeth Rebeiz | October 7, 2008, 4:44 pm
  2. I guess it follows logically that it is primarily the well-established parties, with a firm grip on the electorate, who are so dead-set against reforms that would loosen their sectarian grip.

    On another note, poor Ziad Baroud. I do not think I have felt such sympathy for a minister before.

    Posted by Ms. Tee | October 9, 2008, 1:57 pm

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  1. Pingback: News in Brief: 9 October 2008 « Report on Positivity - October 9, 2008

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