Elections, Lebanon, Reform

March in Support of Proportional Representation

I got an email about a planned march in support of proportional representation (PR), which will take place in Beirut on May 13. In a way, conditions are ripe these days for Lebanese civil society groups to push their agenda for electoral reform because: (a) the issue is front and center again, and (b) because there seem to be a few major political players advocating PR. Michel Aoun and Nabih Berri are both pushing some kind of single national district plan (which is the system in place in Israel), while President Sleiman and his interior ministry appointee, Marwan Charbel, have also come out in favor of PR.

I don’t quite agree with Michael Young’s view that Sleiman’s strategy is purely tactical, that he is using the PR campaign to extend his own mandate. It pays to be cynical in politics, but Sleiman’s moves are consistent with his stance on electoral issues throughout his presidency. We would never have had a figure like Ziyad Baroud in the Interior Ministry had it not been for Sleiman. I’m not suggesting that he’s some kind of philosopher king, but I also don’t think there’s that much political capital to be gained by pushing this particular agenda… certainly not enough to ensure that his mandate is extended.

My own cynicism is directed at Berri and Aoun’s motivations. I see their campaign for PR to be all about pressuring Walid Jumblatt and Saad Hariri, which is also what the Aounist rhetoric about investigating the finances of the March 14 era is about. Aoun, in particular, is trying to shift the headlines away from the situation in Syria. He knows that PR does not have a chance in hell of being passed (and he would probably not be in favor of many varieties of PR, in fact) but there’s no harm in painting the failure of this initiative in the colors of March 14th intransigence.

Lebanon is going to need an electoral law for the 2013 parliamentary elections. What’s the most likely outcome? My sense is that we’re going to get a repeat of the 2009 law, with perhaps one or two additions like expatriate voting thrown in. It’s too late to introduce anything else except perhaps for pre-printed ballots (which would be the single most important reform to implement immediately, in my view), but no one has discussed that issue.

The banner on the right states that proportional representation deserves the attention and advocacy of civil society groups. That is certainly true. But what kind of PR would work best for Lebanon? The kind that Berri and Aoun likely have in mind (assuming that they are being genuine) would be a catastrophe. Single-district closed lists would effectively concentrate a huge amount of power in the hands of party chiefs, because they’d decide the candidates on the slates that they put forward. For PR to be effective in breaking the monopolies of the traditional parties, we need large districts, true, but open lists would be a desideratum as well.

If you are in Beirut on May 13, join the march.
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143 thoughts on “March in Support of Proportional Representation

  1. QN,

    Why would be a catastrophe if huge amount of power would fall into the hands of party chiefs?

    These party chiefs are popular amongst their constituents today.

    Why not change the party chief that represents them, should that person fall in disfavor?

    Posted by Monolith | May 3, 2012, 12:57 pm
  2. If I understand correctly, with PR, it will compel parties and heads of parties to campaign directly to their constituents within their districts, i.e., the LF against the FPM and hopefully encourage new parties to be established?

    What would the impact of PR have on alliances on the broader scale across Lebanon?

    Posted by Monolith | May 3, 2012, 1:02 pm
  3. How and why would Aoun need SHN pre-election?

    Wouldn’t it be PR be somewhat similar to federalism?

    Posted by Monolith | May 3, 2012, 1:06 pm
  4. (Wouldn’t it PR be somewhat similar to federalism?)

    Posted by Monolith | May 3, 2012, 1:07 pm
  5. And perhaps, most importantly, shouldn’t the Lebanese Govt. first and foremost facilitate the transfer of registry of Lebanese to where they actually live from where they are registered.

    For example, I am registered in Aley, but have lived in Beirut all my life. I have no relatives there, nor land or a house.

    Yet, it seems to be near impossible for me to change this.

    Posted by Monolith | May 3, 2012, 1:20 pm
  6. QN,

    You have written on this before so you are the doctor:) The devil is in the details. The constant static that’s coming out of Aoun is to buffer his supposed status as the Christians champion (with constant anti Sunni rhetoric)…and for Berri to appear relevant (as his masters are in knee deep with their own issues in Syria.

    In conclusion the ignorant sheeple of Lebanon will follow the noise pattern and follow the leader leader…

    Posted by danny | May 3, 2012, 1:54 pm
  7. The explanation generally given as to why Lebanon cannot hold a census is because it would be destabilizing. Why then would proportional elections not have the same effect as they will basically provide the same information as the feared census?

    Posted by AIG | May 3, 2012, 2:07 pm
  8. AIG,

    I am almost certain that even if there would be census; the Lebanese would come up with a convoluted formula on who is a “resident” and who should be counted as a Lebanese…You see nothing is simple in Lebanon. If you look back the past six years on how each “interpreted” the constitution to suit their needs of the moment you’d know. When all else fails they use guns/assassinations to achieve the desired effect.

    Posted by danny | May 4, 2012, 9:02 am
  9. #8..

    I think post-graduate university programs will resolve that problem though :).

    Posted by Gabriel | May 4, 2012, 10:58 am
  10. Gaby, :). In all seriousness though it needs to start much earlier than that. First, we need to agree on a common historical narrative. Then, develop a unified curriculum for civic education starting at the elementary school level. In a couple of generations, there *might* be hope. These must be home grown initiatives, and not donor-driven – as it currently is.

    Posted by Johnny Seikaly | May 4, 2012, 12:43 pm
  11. #10..
    That is just one small branch of the many branches of the infected tree. It is a doomed process at its onset. The whole system needs re-rooting.

    Posted by Maverick | May 4, 2012, 10:06 pm
  12. The only way out of its misery is to implement a ” Strategic Shock”, to curtail this down slope trend towards a failed state. This might come in the form of a ground breaking new strategy to shift or alter the system in a radical way, i.e de-confessionalism, secularism, etc.
    otherwise were just going round in circles to the same old dizzying tunes.

    Posted by Maverick | May 4, 2012, 10:12 pm
  13. You can sell your cynicism to others but not to Israelis. Israel’s population is 20% Arab and 50% Jews from Arab countries. And it did not take 2 generations nor a unified narrative nor curriculum nor some great civic education to create a functioning democracy, far from perfect of course but quite passable. There is no cultural difference between the Sunnis in Beirut and those in Haifa and they did not need “two generations” to change.

    To speak bluntly, all these claims about needing to “educate the masses” is complete crap. Non of the many Arab Israelis I have met needed to be “educated”. Yes, you can nitpick and talk about differences, but frankly that is all excuses. When the Jews from Arab countries came to Israel, they came with their “Zaims”. Every Arab village had its sheikh or muchtar or hamola chiefs. The Druze in Israel were organized the same way as in Lebanon, with their own leaders. But when people found out that to work with the government and get services you don’t need a go between, the power of these people went way down.

    And I am not saying that the Israeli government was great. It was not. There was flagrant discrimination and nepotism in hiring for government jobs for example. But just basic transparency, basic rule of law, and the fact that the government, however poorly, provided services directly to citizens without any need for a patron, “educated” the masses in a few short years.

    The notion that change has to come from the bottom is crazy in my mind. Change comes from the top. It comes from the politician that decides to steal much less, from the cabinet minister that views himself as a servant of the people, from the judge who decides to be impartial, from the police chief that cleans up his department. Just look at China, how it changed 180 degrees when the leaders decided to change it. People are same all over and they respond the same way. Maybe there is something “special” about Lebanese that requires “special multi generational education”, but I highly doubt it.

    Posted by AIG | May 4, 2012, 10:21 pm
  14. Mabrouk on the diss QN.

    Agree here that the devil is in the details and especially on the much simpler, though very important, printed ballot.

    I am very cynical and expect zilch from all this.

    A couple of things I find appalling, that need to be brought up in this discussion IMHO, but never are:

    –Lebanon needs to stop changing the election law with every election, especially very close to the elections.

    –Ideally of course, you would like the new (permanent) law to be enacted by people not running for election, ever. I know that is not possible but can we at least get input or participation in that process from some people outside the totally corrupt election/political machine?

    Still cynical and still expecting the same idiots to be back, regardless of the new law.

    Posted by OldHand | May 5, 2012, 1:46 am
  15. AIG.

    You come from a tradition that claims thousands of years of a unifying mythology yet would deny the importance of “a common historical narrative” to the peoples of Lebanon? Apparently news to you is the fact that American schoolkids are educated around “a common historical narrative” as a matter of course in order to instill patriotism and a unifying sense of citizenship. That’s what works.

    Depending on the vagaries of some benevolent figures in positions of power to act in an honorable manner is simply too whimsical for words. Really, you are advocating for the rule of noblesse oblige, not democracy A unified, educated populace would be more likely to insist that those in positions of influence do what’s right or they’ll be tossed out on their kiesters.

    Your lesson about the conversion of the Mizrahim from reliance on “Zaims” to dependence on the State begs the question about the rabbi as go-between for the settlements in the OT and the GOI. Since many of those inhabitants once hailed from Brooklyn and New Jersey et al, do you think they have reverted and “gone native” ?

    Posted by lally | May 5, 2012, 11:50 am
  16. To speak bluntly, all these claims about needing to “educate the masses” is complete crap. Non of the many Arab Israelis I have met needed to be “educated”.


    Arab government-controlled media is a LARGE factor for keeping the “arab street” in resistance mode and not in democracy mode.

    And this is why “incitement” was an important part of the Oslo accords.

    Arab Israelis are educated every day by living in a democracy.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | May 5, 2012, 12:55 pm
  17. Hold the! Hold the press!

    Gaby agrees with AP on something!

    Posted by Gabriel | May 5, 2012, 1:49 pm
  18. AP,

    Incitement against Israel may cause terror against Israel but it is compatible with democracy and with a functioning government. And anyway today, no government can monopolize the media. Nobody can stop the satellite channels. As for being educated by living in democracy, that is not true either. In the early years of Israel the Israeli Arabs were under military rule. That does not teach democracy. It is functioning government that “taught” them that it is ok to trust institutions and not local leaders. The Chinese are another example where by and large the government is trusted even though it is not democratic.


    I did not tell Lebanese not to build a common narrative. I said that it is just not necessary for a functioning state. What common narrative do Israeli Arabs and Jews have? None at all, but the state functions. When Lebanese immigrate to other countries, they integrate and function very well within these countries without having a common narrative with the majority because they trust the institutions.

    What you and the cynics here are advocating is a “noblesse oblige” kind of oligarchy. Who is going to build this “narrative” except the people who control education? So you are giving the elites an excuse for the failures of the Lebanese state for at least 2 generations until “the masses are educated”. What I am saying is that the elites should be demanded to do the little things that make big differences and that the masses will quickly “learn”. Who do you think murdered Tueni for example? Some “uneducated” pawn or someone from the elite? I am calling the Lebanese that instead of complaining they should join the police or the army or some other institution and do the right thing. If enough do it, there will be change. If they complain from abroad, nothing will happen.

    As for the Rabbis in the settlements, I don’t know what you are talking about. The settlers are represented by their representatives in the Knesset and by elected local officials.

    Maybe the process I am proposing will not work. Maybe something else is required, but certainly not 2 generations of “building a narrative” and “educating the masses”. That is just a sorry excuse.

    Posted by AIG | May 5, 2012, 11:44 pm
  19. Monolith – why is it ‘near impossible’ to change your place of residence? Have you tried?

    Posted by Nadim Shehadi | May 6, 2012, 5:44 am
  20. Hi Nadim,

    Yes. I enquired about it.

    I was informed by both my lawyer and the neighborhood Moukhtar that I would need wasta on a high level to do that.

    If you could be of help on this matter. I would really appreciate it.


    Posted by Monolith | May 6, 2012, 6:01 am
  21. Why does Monolith have to go to the local muchtar with this issue? Because he is “uneducated” about democracy? Don’t think so. It is because some person who is in charge of the voting database is an asshole. Which is further evidence to what I am saying. Would Monolith even give his muchtar the time of day if the government was responsive?

    Posted by AIG | May 6, 2012, 9:44 am
  22. You need the Mokhtar to give you an ackowledgement that you have resided in the area for so many years. I will find out more but thousands of women move their place of residence automatically when they get married. No procedure in the government is easy but voluntary movement of residence is as easy as changing your religion in Lebanon.

    In any case it does not need a change in the law or inclusion in the law unless it is to become compulsory which I do not think is a good idea. Anyway my cousin did it and I have sent him an email to check if there was a big wasta needed or involved.

    Posted by Nadim Shehadi | May 6, 2012, 4:08 pm
  23. Thanks, Nadim. That’s very kind of you.

    Looking forwards to your cousin’s insights on the subject.

    Posted by Monolith | May 6, 2012, 5:47 pm
  24. Nadim,

    “You need the Mokhtar to give you an ackowledgement that you have resided in the area for so many years.”

    Does that make sense to you? In which democratic country do you need some “elder” to vouch for your residence? Proof of residence is easily established by rental or purchase agreements and by bills.Why give the mochtar, an non elected official, this power?

    Posted by AIG | May 6, 2012, 6:56 pm
  25. Monolith,

    Your unfortunate situation is exactly what I am talking about. How is it that a person like you does not know how to change his residence status in Lebanon? These are exactly the small things that you need to change. Perhaps you are too busy making a living, but certainly there are affluent Lebanese who could take this on as a cause. Publicize this and bring it to people’s attention. Badger the responsible cabinet member, etc. etc. If many people with some free time and power (“elites”) did this, you would see change in a few short years. It does not take generations and educating the masses to bring about changes like this.

    Posted by AIG | May 6, 2012, 7:04 pm
  26. AIG,

    fyi. Moukhtar is an elected official in Lebanon. The moukhtar in my little section of Beirut is in fact the only state institution that I trust to accomplish basic tasks- such as issuing ID’s, birth/death certificates, etc. Agreed this may not be the most sensical but it does work.

    OTOH, What we are saying is not mutually exclusive. I agree that those in power need to become better men and do the little things that build trust in state institutions. I just don’t think they will. There is no incentive for them to do so.

    The people do not see the value in electing someone that will work for their best interest. IMHO, it is because they do not see a common story with fellow citizens of a different religion. Until a Christian truly identifies with a Muslim and vice versa there is no hope for this failed state called Lebanon. Case in point is Charbel Nahhas – the only statesman in this country. He’s the only Cabinet minister that watches out for people’s interest and resigns his post if a decision is forced on him. If he doesn’t get the backing of a zaim in the next election, the people will not vote for him – even though this is the only guy that is actually working for the people. Ziad Baroud is another example.

    With regards to common narrative, you must be joking that there is no common narrative in Israeli schools?

    I take everything I read in Akhbar with a grain of salt, but I see the same type of articles in Ha’aretz all the time.

    Just so we don’t get into a pissing match here’s an article from the same paper bashing the Lebanese education system for the same thing.

    Posted by Johnny Seikaly | May 7, 2012, 3:39 am
  27. Maverick,

    I too agree with you that the system needs a major shock. I call for arresting and throwing in jail every one of our zaims and forbidding their immediate family (brothers/sisters/cousins/children/nephew/nieces) from practicing politics for at least 20 years.

    In lieu of the above, I think a good start is by educating children on a common narrative and acceptable norms of governance. The adults are too entrenched in the existing system – and in fact enjoy the ‘fawda’, they feel it is part of Lebanon’s charm – so they are beyond repair.

    Perhaps the two need to be combined.

    Posted by Johnny Seikaly | May 7, 2012, 3:46 am
  28. Monolith the news is not so good – changing residence is complicated because you need to go through a process in the ministry of interior which requires about 25 or 30 signatures sometimes two from the same department. You exist in various registers and these have to be amended. Again this means that there is no need to change the law but to reform administrative procedures. The main thing is also that it is a purely procedural matter, so anybody can do it any time and you only have to do it once for all the future generations of monoliths who will only have to go to the same procedure if they want to move back to Aley.

    Posted by Nadim Shehadi | May 7, 2012, 3:54 am
  29. When did the rich or elite in Lebanon had to go to any institution to get things done ? they usually send the “Shofair” or someone and get all those 50 signatures signed and stamps licked .

    Walaow! The “Madame or the Meussyeu” can’t and shouldn’t bother with such details. So who will change things? It should be the everyday normal people who are hurting from these retarded procedures.

    Posted by Vulcan | May 7, 2012, 7:28 am
  30. Johnny,

    I stand corrected regarding the muchtar being an elected official. How often is he elected? Who does he report to? If you don’t like his decisions who do you appeal to?

    My point about Israeli schools is not that there is no common narrative in the Jewish schools (there is). My point is that the narrative in the Arab schools is not the same as in the Jewish schools. The courses are in Arabic and the curriculum is different. The proof of the pudding is that Arab students do not leave their schools system as Zionists. Yet, even though there is no common narrative, the state functions. I put this forward as evidence that you don’t need a common narrative for a state to work.

    Let’s look at the specific problem Monolith has which is difficult to solve because it requires defying a bureaucracy. We all agree that with wasta, this problem can be solved for a specific individual. All you need therefore is for some manager in the ministry of interior to say to himself that from this day on, he will give every person the same respect and get it done for him. Just because he wants Lebanon to be a better country. If enough people like that take the initiative, things will change. The way to push such things forward is for a person like Monolith to highlight his plight, create a group of like minded individuals and badger the ministry of interior until some bureaucrat sees the light. Naturally, this is time consuming and therefore you need people with means to do it or for other Lebanese to support this cause with donations. But the point is that this bottom up approach will work. It is practical but not glamorous. Instead of wishing for generational changes there are significant small steps that can be taken now.

    Posted by AIG | May 7, 2012, 8:38 am
  31. Vulcan,

    All significant changes come from people who can lift their head from the daily grind and devote themselves to the “cause”. That means that the children of “Madame or the Meussyeu” (the elites) must do it. You take one simple goal, like solving Monolith’s problem and you solve it. This gets the ball rolling and more people join your cause. And you set yourself another realistic small goal and continue. Contrast these methods with talk of sweeping changes and “educating the masses”. People will change if they see results. So instead of pronouncing bombastic goals, I advocate making many small and doable changes that eventually will make a big difference.

    Posted by AIG | May 7, 2012, 8:45 am
  32. In case no one has noticed, AIG’s secret ambition is to run for the presidency of Lebanon and go down in history as the man who reformed the confessional state, inaugurated the Third Republic, and brought Lebanon into the modern world.


    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 7, 2012, 9:47 am
  33. Thanks Nadim. Much appreciated.

    I assume the same goes for Municipal elections?

    There is not much point for a person like me to actually vote in any election in Lebanon when I cannot vote for the candidate I would like to, in the district I reside.

    That is something that needs to be changed in Lebanon.

    I am sure there are quite a few people in my shoes.

    I also wonder, if given the choice, how many people would rather vote within the district they live in, rather than the villages or towns they stem from.

    Posted by Monolith | May 7, 2012, 10:04 am
  34. QN,

    Unfortunately I am not a Christian, so being president of Lebanon is out of the question. What political jobs are reserved for Jews? 🙂

    Seriously, my whole point is that you do not need to be president to make changes. Allow me to make this personal to drive the point home. Instead of advocating a march for proportional elections, how about advocating a sit in to solve Monolith’s problem? This is something very concrete that people can get behind and does not smell of politics. This is something FMers, Aounists, Amalists etc. can get behind. Why this shooting for the moon and not at a sitting duck? Why this all or nothing approach instead of taking small concrete steps that actually also help people? These are tangible things that you can actually do in Lebanon that won’t work in any other Arab country except maybe Tunisia.

    Posted by AIG | May 7, 2012, 10:19 am
  35. AIG,

    The fish rots from the head down…To take care of a simple administrative problem (ask Canadian experts to set up an online self serve system or special kiosks) will deprive thousands of lazy zaim endorsed punks to lose their “jobs” at the ministries not to mention the bribes that they get every time you need them to stamp a lousy document!

    You see my Jewish friend you can’t just change “monolith’s problem”…The whole damned system is rotten. No band aid will work.

    As for your ambitions about being the president of Lebanon…You would not need to be Christian if it becomes non confessional and Jews are still recognized as one of the sects that make Lebanon. 😀

    Posted by danny | May 7, 2012, 11:05 am
  36. Danny,

    I did not advocate setting up one database and a kiosk exactly because of the reasons you mentioned. I advocated leaving the system in place to start with and just making sure everyone is treated as if he has large wasta.

    Posted by AIG | May 7, 2012, 11:08 am
  37. “I advocated leaving the system in place to start with and just making sure everyone is treated as if he has large wasta”

    El Presidente…that means these guys (amazing employees) will not get their bribes. Do you get the point?

    Posted by danny | May 7, 2012, 11:13 am
  38. Danny,

    I do get the point. But wasta is also influence, not bribes. That is why I advocate people with influence making the changes. Look, there are plenty of reasons not do anything, and I didn’t say it will be easy. All I am saying it is doable and not a pie in the sky, nor is it some abstract ideal to be achieved in two generations after some mass education campaign. First step, start a facebook or whatever group of people like Monolith sharing the same problem. Do I really have to spell it out for you?

    Posted by AIG | May 7, 2012, 12:04 pm
  39. @38

    Yes, yes please educate us…We will quench our thirst for knowledge through you o great one! please do spell it out!

    But kindly try to avoid building castles in the sky; unless you are familiar with how Lebanese (in Lebanon) work and function…

    Posted by danny | May 7, 2012, 12:36 pm
  40. Danny,

    You know damn well I am not trying to educate you. I am trying to understand why you think NOTHING can be done. Generalizing a bit just to make a point, I only see two extremes in the Lebanese discourse:
    1) A bottomless pit of cynicism
    2) An effort for radical changes that have very little chance of materializing

    Where is the middle road? Why not set attainable short term goals and pursue those?

    Posted by AIG | May 7, 2012, 12:41 pm
  41. I’m sorry, I can’t resist.

    AIG. You think Danny thinks “NOTHING” can done? You think the Lebanese are a bunch of dodos who don’t pursue short term goals? Who don’t set up little Facebook pages for this or that reason? That they needed to wait for you to bring up those suggestions? Is that what you really think?

    Also, I don’t think you should let a little technicality- like a Maronite President- stop you from seeking the post. You can flip from being an Atheist Jew to being a Maronite one. I’m sure Rai or whatever his name is won’t look for a sincere oath of conversion from you.

    Posted by Gabriel | May 7, 2012, 4:15 pm
  42. Even though I think it is a good idea to give the Lebanese community working in the Arab Gulf the chance to cast their votes at Lebanese consulates, I’m not a big fan of allowing the Lebanese diaspora to vote.

    Lebanese living in the Gulf are there to work, have no chance of obtaining citizenship, and may not be able to afford or get time off from their employment to fly into Lebanon to cast their vote.

    However, is allowing the Lebanese diaspora in Australia or South America, that have immigrated and become citizens and nationals of these countries, really sane?

    Posted by Monolith | May 7, 2012, 4:16 pm
  43. Gabriel,

    Is there already a group in Lebanon dedicated to solving Monolith’s problem? If yes, then what I am saying is moot. It would be interesting to see what they have done so far and what works and what doesn’t.

    Posted by AIG | May 7, 2012, 5:59 pm
  44. AIG: Monolith does not have a problem, all he needs to go through is a painful administrative procedure. He can do it himself or pay somebody $100 to do it for him.

    We will all have a problem and will need to emigrate en masse if somebody like Johnny Seikaly comes to power 🙂

    Posted by Nadim Shehadi | May 7, 2012, 6:45 pm
  45. Gabriel,

    I did a search but couldn’t find such a group. Perhaps if you do an Arabic search you would be more successful. But if there is no such group, what would be your explanation for that?

    By the way, I think you solved the problem for how any person from any denomination can run for any public office in Lebanon. All he has to do is covert insincerely to the denomination required by law. Now to the next problem.

    Posted by AIG | May 7, 2012, 6:51 pm
  46. Nadim,

    If Monolith does not have a problem why did you write the following in comment 28:
    “Monolith the news is not so good – changing residence is complicated because you need to go through a process in the ministry of interior which requires about 25 or 30 signatures sometimes two from the same department.”

    Who does the $100 have to be paid to? If it is bribes, it is certainly a problem.

    Posted by AIG | May 7, 2012, 6:53 pm
  47. AIG:

    I did a search but couldn’t find such a group. Perhaps if you do an Arabic search you would be more successful. But if there is no such group, what would be your explanation for that?

    I don’t know anything about Monolith’s problem. Or the circumstances around it, or the reason why it is complicated. I was addressing your “solution” of grassroots movement and your suggestion that a Facebook page be set up.


    If a group of Lebanese people managed to set up a page to “stop shooting birds” in Lebanon, I’m sure Monolith can get enough people to set up a Facebook page to… I don’t know: “expedite paperwork in Lebanon”.

    I think you solved the problem for how any person from any denomination can run for any public office in Lebanon. All he has to do is covert insincerely to the denomination required by law.

    It’s true, I did solve the problem. It was the same solution to the Palestinian “Right of Return” problem. Have them all become Jews, and benefit from the Law of Return. I just don’t understand- given that most are Muslim- their men snipped, and the rest all Kosher/Halal, why they don’t just go through the formalities.

    The solution though is so Catholic circa 15th Century.

    Posted by Gabriel | May 7, 2012, 7:36 pm
  48. Gabriel,

    I am sure also that Monolith can setup a group. The question is rather why there is no more motivation to tackle the issues of Lebanon with such efforts. The question is why with such tools available many Lebanese still talk of needing “two generations” and mass education.

    You really are minimizing the problem though. Monolith feels disenfranchised as a voter because he cannot vote in the place he lives and cares about neither in national nor in municipal elections just because his family is originally from somewhere else. That is not an “expedite paperwork issue”. That is a core issue of any democracy.

    As for your “solutions”, why don’t you ask Palestinians why they don’t do what you suggest and get back to us?

    Posted by AIG | May 7, 2012, 7:55 pm
  49. As I suggested, such issues are in fact being tackled. There are groups pressing for Civil marriages. There is a LGBT rights organization. In fact, this very post that QN started was about an email he got of joining a march.

    I am not minimizing Monolith’s problem. I don’t know enough about his problem. I don’t know the details of what he needs to do. But from what I’ve read so far- it is not a problem of “Democracy”, but “Beaurocracy”.

    Re: Palestinians. I don’t particularly care why they do or do not. I am simply opining on the obvious. They are free to approach the issue as they please.

    Posted by Gabriel | May 7, 2012, 8:12 pm
  50. Gabriel,

    So, do you think that the opinion that Lebanon needs two generations and mass education to change is overly pessimistic?

    When the bureaucracy disenfranchises voters, it is a problem of democracy. Read what Monolith writes. He is being disenfranchised as a voter.

    Posted by AIG | May 7, 2012, 8:23 pm
  51. No AIG

    I think the problems are far more complex and nuanced in Lebanon.

    I think the argument of two generations and mass education is overly pessimistic, and not reflective of the reality.

    When the bureaucracy disenfranchises voters, it is a problem of democracy.

    AIG, even in the best of democracies, voters are at times disenfranchised. Things are not so black and white.

    I don’t think that Disenfranchisement alone makes or breaks a “Democracy”. If that were true, Canada would not be democratic! But of course Canada is one of the better democracies out there, whether or not I feel unrepresented or disenfranchised in this or that issue.

    Monolith’s problem seems to be purely a bureaucratic one. Even then, I am not so sure. Why shouldn’t he have to spend money to change some paperwork? I pay taxes and fees for all sorts of “government services” in Canada. Why shouldn’t Monolith have to fork out $100 to change his area of residence status? Does Monolith file or have to file an annual income tax return (that’s how I communicate to the government my “current” address).

    As I said, I don’t know enough about the issue to have an opinion either way. But simply piggy-backing on Monolith’s issue for the sake of piggy-backing on this issue is not the way to go about it.

    Posted by Gabriel | May 7, 2012, 8:46 pm
  52. Uh-oh…AIG n Gabby are at it again…..

    Posted by Maverick | May 7, 2012, 8:50 pm
  53. Gabriel,

    “I think the argument of two generations and mass education is overly pessimistic, and not reflective of the reality.”

    Which is exactly the point I was trying to make.

    ” Why shouldn’t he have to spend money to change some paperwork?”

    Because he is not spending money, he is bribing government officials.
    Also, Monolith’s disenfranchisement is at a completely different level than yours. He cannot vote in his municipal elections or for his local representatives in national elections. You can, but you feel your vote does not make a difference. That is an altogether different problem.

    Monolith’s problem is just a concrete example of one problem with Lebanese government that is part of why many Lebanese see their state as a failing one. I think it is interesting to explore concrete problems instead of talking abstractly. It would be interesting to get Monolith’s take on it.

    Posted by AIG | May 7, 2012, 9:00 pm
  54. Maverick,

    Why don’t you jump in? What is your view on the issues we are discussing?
    What do you make of the problem Monolith is facing and do you think it is amenable to being solved for all Lebanese by organized action?

    Posted by AIG | May 7, 2012, 9:01 pm
  55. LoL. i have to agree with you there AIG. These guys expect us to entertain them with our views ad nauseum. They should speak up once in a while!

    Re: Bribe. I agree with you- to a point. I think when you have a system in which the government doesn’t really make any money, doesn’t have the infrastructure to make processes more seamless, or efficient, then you should fix that first… before you focus on whether this $100 was technically a “Bribe” or not.

    Posted by Gabriel | May 7, 2012, 9:08 pm
  56. Monolith…

    Why not? I don’t think you can paint the Lebanese diaspora with one brush stroke. I hail from down under and have a vested interest in the welfare of the Levant. I’ve lived there, worked there, and plan on going back as soon as the nutjobs leave power….or a miracle happens.
    Is allowing me the opportunity to cast a vote to affect the destiny however slight, of a land and peoples I care about?
    Not in touch you say? Don’t you worry sunshine, we have satellite TV broadcasting all your favourite channels. Did you know Al Manar has a Europe chapter as well?
    And can you tell me…. Does Lebanon have an Epidemic in regards to plastic surgery and the ladies or am I watching too much MTV?

    Posted by Maverick | May 7, 2012, 9:10 pm
  57. Gabriel,

    It is a catch-22. If you accept that people take bribes instead of putting the money in government coffers, then the government will never have enough money to build the infrastructure to get out of this vicious circle. That is why reducing corruption is an important aspect of economic growth. You cannot fix the infrastructure issue without reducing corruption.

    Posted by AIG | May 7, 2012, 9:18 pm
  58. AIG,

    Heres what I think about the pesky little details of poor old Monoliths’ crisis. Who bloody cares!!!!

    I tell ya what the Lebanese should really be crying over: The water systems or lack thereof. In the not so distant future, people will be begging for fresh drinking water and here is good ol Lebanon leaving the tap running with an abundant supply of fresh drinking water, turned toxic and left wasting towards the polluted seas. Atleast get their basic utilities right! Heck, if they can manage to implement a sound water system, they could even move on to renewable energy and finally fix the electricity problem and pollution in one swoop.That will create a domino effect and you know the rest.
    Again, for that to work, there needs to be a shock treatement to get things streamlined and working. In the current state, there is no chance, so lets not fight over the pesky details when greater issues loom overhead.

    Posted by Maverick | May 7, 2012, 9:19 pm
  59. Nadim Shehadeh says: “We will all have a problem and will need to emigrate en masse if somebody like Johnny Seikaly comes to power ”

    🙂 You’re probably right, as I have no patience for the incompetent.

    BUT you have already emigrated so your statement makes no sense. Unless you are suggesting that you would emigrate from the Earth if I take over Lebanon. If that is the case, then thank you for your faith in my potential abilities to transform this tiny speck of nothing into a global powerhouse! 🙂

    That said… you can rest your little mind at ease. I have no ambitions beyond seeing my little projects in Lebanon grow and generate jobs so people like you don’t need to emigrate for a ‘good’ job.

    I’m focusing on what I know to better Lebanon, how about you? If you plan on coming home and fixing the place, then we are on the same team and I’d love to hear about your intentions and help you in any way I can.

    If you only plan on visiting to enjoy the beach in Summer then we have nothing further to talk about.

    Posted by Johnny Seikaly | May 8, 2012, 6:42 am
  60. Hi Nadim

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 8, 2012, 7:26 am
  61. Maverik,

    When you say “shock treatment”, what do you mean?

    ” so lets not fight over the pesky details when greater issues loom overhead”

    I guess this is where I would strongly disagree with you. It is the pesky details that matter. Change comes from the little things that make the lives of people better.

    Avoiding the small problems to concentrate only on the very difficult ones is a recipe for procrastination and disaster. In a modern state you cannot concentrate only on one issue. You must be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

    Posted by AIG | May 8, 2012, 9:32 am
  62. AIG ya Habibi ya 3yooni,

    It is not a matter of choosing between difficult or simple tasks, small or large, all tasks to improve the people’s lot are all equally important. I’m referring to those tasks of necessity…the simple minimum any Governmental body SHOULD be ” taking care of”. Utilities for example. It really is embarrassing. Water and electricity should be priority, if they can manage to implement a sound system for basic needs, I’m sure it would restore much needed confidence among the population and at least give them impetus to hope for further improvement.
    The top-down approach seems more likely to work rather than the bottom-up where in all likelihood, changes or any sort of implementation will be lost in the Lebanese labyrinth of bureaucracy or worse still nipped in the bud.
    Hence the ” Strategic Shock”, were a dynamic changing of the system can affect implementation of projects resulting in a trickling down to the more minute issues, i.e. vote registration.
    Example, why argue and debate over PR and election laws , as they do every election phase for their own interests, when you can pull out the dreaded backward system all together. i.e. De-confessionalize the system, secularize the state, technocratic parliament etc….Then we can sit down and talk about PR and what not.

    Posted by Maverick | May 8, 2012, 6:06 pm
  63. Vulcan,

    We share many sentiments you and I, but don’t forget, once you return, make sure you clean yourself of the self-loathing for it won’t be received with the same cordiality….Unless you become as big as Ziad Rahbani.

    Posted by Maverick | May 8, 2012, 6:08 pm
  64. … worse still…

    Someone may be waiting there with a noose for him!

    Posted by Gabriel | May 8, 2012, 6:10 pm
  65. Long live our strugle against the Colonialist !

    Posted by Vulcan | May 8, 2012, 6:51 pm
  66. Greetings Nadim,

    Haven’t had much time to follow up on this post and thread.

    Am willing to pay 5 times the amount you mentioned to have someone go through the administrative procedure to change my registry from Aley to Beirut.

    Will hold you publicly liable if that goes over budget.

    AIG and QN are herewith my witnesses.

    Let’s see you put money where your words are.

    Posted by Monolith | May 8, 2012, 6:58 pm
  67. Maverik,

    The top down approach may be more effective than the bottom up one, but why is that relevant? That is like saying that the best way to get rid of Assad is by a foreign intervention and not by local bottom up efforts. That is true, but since there will not be an intervention, what does it matter that it is effective? Unless you articulate a realistic change from the top, it is not an interesting option. On the other hand, the bottom up effort is realistic and puts your destiny into your own hands. It will not be easy or quick, but don’t forget how Assad was forced to leave Lebanon. It would not have happened without the March 14 demonstration. If you could move Assad, you can move Lebanese bureaucrats.

    Posted by AIG | May 8, 2012, 7:00 pm
  68. AIG,

    Yes…but in this case, Lebanese Internal issues are plenty. What do you suggest, a march, a demo, protest every other Sunday.
    It is quite a different dynamic than the Arab Spring revolts for the simple reason being that these upheavals targeted a central body of power that affected the whole population. Although this is quite a courageous task as we all have witnessed, it makes for an easier approach than say going after multiple pockets of power via each sub-group. The population is sub divided along multiple fault lines that looks like a mathematical sequence. M14/M8 (2), Political Party Heavyweights (4), religious bodies (8) Political parties (16) etc etc. and they all pass the slippery fish to one another trying to avoid responsibility. Good luck with the bottom-up approach.

    Posted by Maverick | May 8, 2012, 7:24 pm
  69. Maverick,
    Diversity of opinion,among other things, ought to be celebrated. Without it there won’t be a horse race.
    No one know for certain what works and when would it work, I grant you that. Yet I will be willing to bet that it would be far less complicated to change the small things if citizens show that they care about these issues.Whether it is electricity, traffic congestion, or MP privileges demonstrations of disgust and unwillingness to accept business as usual will bear fruits. Just let the powers to be know that the constituents are noit satisfied with their performance. Grass roots must work because if it does not then society is dysfunctional or at least undemocratic.
    Maybe i will have a Cosmopolitan with you sometime this summer.:-)

    Posted by gkaram | May 8, 2012, 9:05 pm
  70. AIG,
    A couple of days ago I wrote you, throgh QN, a rather lengthy post about the office of Mukhtar. The post is somewhere in cyberspace.
    I will not recreate the whole post but I wanted you to dismiss the clamins that the Mukhtar is an important post in Lebanon. It is true that it has become an elected position, rather recently, but it is essentially a Notary Public. A mukhtar witnesses signatures and earns a few extra dollars 9 very few use the LL as a medium of exchange) by performing some government functions on behalf of his constituents. He is not authorized to issue anything , no ID; or ant other documents as someone has suggested but instead will apply on your behalf for an ID, Passport etc. A mukhtar is the lowest rank of elected official in Lebanon ( besides MPs and municipal elections there are no other public elected ofices in Lebanon) and his job is needed only because government offices are not efficient. It is a relic from the Ottoman empire and it will not be missed by anyone.

    Posted by gkaram | May 8, 2012, 10:27 pm
  71. GK,
    Not to keep pounding away ad nauseam at this topic, but your suggestion that grass roots movements work is agreeable only to an extent. Ideally, it’s a fantastic idea and I encourage it…but realistically, how successful have grassroots movements been in the Lebanese political arena. How much influence have they exerted on the decision making of Zaims, kingpins and pols?
    Had the M14 movement in its embryonic stages not been hijacked and endorsed by the Lebanese ruling elite, would it have been as instrumental in ousting the Syrian Army?
    How successful have the Laique parade organizers been in pushing for secularism in the parliament?
    How long have the Lebanese cried foul over electricity and basic necessities?
    I hope I’m not coming across as defeatist or negative, but I do lack optimism in the power systems that keep those in power in power perpetually.
    Has there been a new platform/party created recently that is secular in nature and that address the current/immediate issues concerning the Lebanese?

    Posted by Maverick | May 8, 2012, 10:32 pm
  72. Maverick,
    It has not worked because it has NOT been tried lol. To stand up to the Zaim is not in our culture yet.
    It is rather faulty logic to assume that since an outcome has not occurred before then it will not take place in the future:-) You know about black Swans don’t you?

    Posted by gkaram | May 8, 2012, 11:04 pm
  73. Ghassan, You are right that the Mukhtar does not issue any of those things, but follows up the necessary paperwork. I’ve tried getting paperwork both ways. Believe me, I and many of my co-residents in Beirut, will sorely miss the moukhtar if he goes away today. Granted, if the government is able to function properly and creates forms, processes and procedures for basic administrative issues then there is no need for the position and it can go away. Until that time… The moukhtar is the only useful person (from a resident’s perspective) in government. I moved back 5 years ago and I say this from direct experience.

    Posted by Johnny Seikaly | May 9, 2012, 3:39 am
  74. Vulcan, I gave up a lot (financially speaking) to come back, and though I bitch and moan a lot on this forum, I am very happy I made this decision. The quality of life, the family, the friends, the fruits and veggies all make this a wonderful place to be. There is life here – as opposed to the States, where I spent most of my life. History is being made in the region and it’s wonderful to be a part of it – no matter how inconsequential my part is.

    I’m happy to share my experience. I just accepted your linkedin invite so feel free to ask me anything there, or on johnny.seikaly(at)gmail.com.

    Posted by Johnny Seikaly | May 9, 2012, 3:52 am
  75. GK,
    Thanks for the explanation

    Thanks for elaborating

    I have a follow up question. What makes the muchtar effective? Why do the the bureaucrats listen to him and don’t ignore him like they do regular citizens? Where does his power come from or what is the quid pro quo? Is he the go between for bribes basically?

    I am asking this question to understand if there is a way to move power from the muchtar to the “people”.

    Posted by AIG | May 9, 2012, 9:05 am
  76. AIG,
    Let us assume that I need to apply for an official ID that got lost. I need to get a st of photos , drive to a delapidated government office ,say 10 miles away, fight with the crowds there about who is responsible for what, probably pay a couple of small bribes, start the process and then possibly be asked to come back tomorrow or just give the mukhtar the photos and he would save me the hassle. He probably has a few other applications for ID cards, he has developed a relationship with the staff at the other government office and so probably will not need to stand in line….

    Posted by gkaram | May 9, 2012, 9:25 am
  77. GK,

    How many people typically does a muchtar represent? You must have thousands of them in Lebanon.

    Posted by AIG | May 9, 2012, 10:04 am
  78. AIG
    Every village has one, larger towns have two but I am afraid that I do not know the formula for the cities but I presume that each neighbourhood has one. So a quick division by say a thousand means that Lebanon has a few thousand Mukhtars. That is pnly a guess. If I get a chance I will look up the exact number.

    Posted by gkaram | May 9, 2012, 2:08 pm
  79. AIG,
    The total number of Mukhtars in Lebanon is : 2427 which is what I had estimated in the above post. So to answer your question , on the average each Mukhtar represents about 2000 people , more or less.

    Posted by gkaram | May 9, 2012, 7:46 pm
  80. GK,

    Thanks a lot. This is very interesting. I don’t know what to say. With this pampering through a “concierge service”, why would the Lebanese want to change the way their government does business? 🙂

    Posted by AIG | May 9, 2012, 10:54 pm
  81. Maverick,

    You are blaming your immigration on the civil war and its consequences to this day. What about those that immigrated pre-1975?

    I think tax-paying Lebanese citizens and citizens with a singular Lebanese Nationality should be given priority to vote in Lebanese elections.

    Apart from the reasons I mentioned exempting Lebanese living in the Arab Gulf is that they do not pay taxes in those states and constitute a huge chunk of the funds that come into Lebanon. Off course, there are also the Lebanese living in Africa to contemplate.

    It’s a complicated issue that certainly merits more attention and scrutiny.

    Posted by Monolith | May 10, 2012, 12:06 am
  82. AIG,

    Seeing the amount of time you are spending on this blog helping us Lebanese sort out our problems, you should contemplate renouncing your Israeli citizenship and move to Lebanon.

    You’d become our first Jewish star here and probably receive honorary Lebanese citizenship without having to pay anyone any bribes for it.

    And our Hommos is better than your Hommos.

    Posted by Monolith | May 10, 2012, 12:14 am
  83. The other reason the mukhtar is effective is he knows which forms you need to complete an application.

    When I go direct to the government office, they tell me, bring forms A, B & C. So I go get them and bring them in. Then they say what about, D, E & F? I say you never mentioned them. Then they say, well we are telling you now. So I go get those, then it’s G, H & I, and so on and so forth. I usually lose my cool by this point and start screaming at the incompetent sitting in front of me. My hollering about how incompetent the system is usually exempts me from forms G, H & I. I’ve paid very few bribes in these five years. 🙂

    On the other hand. The Mukhtar asks me for A through I from the first time. I gather those documents, hand them to him. Pay him a small fee (depends on application type) and he says come back in 3 days. I come back 3 days later and the work is done.

    Excellent concierge service, by any standard – I speak only of my Moukhtar who’s been there for the past 30 years or so. I can’t speak to the efficacy of others.

    Could the system could be simplified or the bureaucrats trained better? Most certainly and I wouldn’t have a problem going to the government office directly.

    This applies in the private sector as well, unfortunately there is no moukhtar to sort things out there. Anyone ever try to apply for a small business loan at a Lebanese bank? The staff have no idea what forms are needed, when, where or why? It’s their way of testing if you are willing to work hard enough to get the loan.

    Posted by Johnny Seikaly | May 10, 2012, 1:48 am
  84. Monolith, you’re on:

    The process can take 2 to 3 months and there are things that require you presence personally but you can do it all yourself going from one administration to another. You need to go in person to the police for an interview and to check that your name was struck in Aley and that it was properly registered in Beirut etc… etc…. You don’t have to pay anybody if you don’t want to – its just that there are people who earn a living chasing administrative procedures like this and its a service that is well worth paying for. There are lots of stamps to buy etc… for every stage.

    The main point is that it is a purely administrative matter and does not require a change in the law and anybody can do it as a matter of personal choice. This is important because it is all part of the myths about the system in Lebanon which is complicated enough without adding imagined complications to it and this has nothing to do with sectarianism or the powersharing arrangement.

    Just like corruption, clientelism, sectarianism, alliances with outside forces etc… etc… you can have all those without having a confessional powersharing.system so we do not have to hide behind it.. Kamal Salibi used to say that the Lebanese think that only secularism and fascism can solve their problems.

    Now going back to important matters: what is our bet about? You have a five hundred dollar budget, you can hire a stretch limmo for all your trips to Aley and blow it up like that.

    Posted by Nadim Shehadi | May 12, 2012, 7:42 am
  85. Nadim,
    Not to belabour the point, but although I understand perfectly the logic of saying “it is a purely administrative matter and does not require a change in the law and anybody can do it as a matter of personal choice” yet I find that it suffers of a serious flaw. Does it really matter if a service is “offered” but with a set of conditions that make access next to impossible?
    A skeptic could even argue that often a service is offered while access to it is essentially denied by a myriad of red tape.
    Food availability does not prevent famines when access to food is essentially denied through the price mechanism.

    Posted by gkaram | May 12, 2012, 11:22 am
  86. I am none the wiser reading all this information.

    Is it really difficult to change your residence? Or isn’t it?

    All this talk about administrative or bureaucratic chokepoints is fine and dandy. Surely someone can write a concise and detailed set of steps that Monolith can follow in order to get the paperwork done!

    Perhaps in the internet age, someone can make that suggestion to the government!

    Put the forms on-line! With clear instructions!

    Posted by Gabriel | May 12, 2012, 12:00 pm
  87. Nadim,

    I will look into it on Monday.

    I will stock up on stamps, five $20 Bills and as much patience as I can muster.

    My point though remains, it is near impossible to do it. Nobody should schlepp himself around for 2-3 months to get 20 to 30 signatures from 20 governmental departments in Aley and Beirut, for it to take effect.

    What does it take for an American who moves from state to state to vote within the state he resides in?

    Posted by Monolith | May 12, 2012, 12:46 pm
  88. Our former Miss Lebanon, Nadine Njeim, had something interesting to say about proportional representation on Kalam El Nass.

    It starts at 1:32:00


    I may yet decide to invest the $500 on taking out Miss Njeim for dinner, instead 😉

    Posted by Monolith | May 12, 2012, 2:09 pm
  89. Gaby that’s exactly what my first thought was…See @35

    Posted by danny | May 12, 2012, 2:14 pm
  90. Gabriel,
    Like everything else about a country whose civil service has not moved much beyond the system left by the Ottomans the answer is both yes and no. Yes technically it can be done but No it is not easy and that is done on purpose. They do not want people to be able to have the freedom to vote in the regions they reside in. That would upset all the political calculations.
    This idea of “deception” is still going on. Witness the fact that all , including the unconstitutionally elected president are pushing the right to vote for the expatriate. But to exercise the vote one must show up in person at a Lebanese embassy or consulate general. There are , for example 4 such locations in the US which is 2.5 times larger than Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Palestinian territoties, kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Oman and Saudi Arabia combined. Canada is even larger and also has only 4 places to cast the vote. How many are going to be willing to travel thousands of miles in order to cast a vote? My point is this: you offer the franchise but you make it excrutiatingly difficult to access it. In my book this is the same as not offering the service in the first place.

    Posted by gkaram | May 12, 2012, 2:35 pm
  91. gkaram:

    Absolutely right but again, and apologies for repeating myself, this has nothing to do with the confessional powersharing system. You should be able to change your place of residence online, same as setting up a company or starting a business or getting a construction permit etc.. etc.. you can even have a app on your IPhone. We are 104 out of 183 in the world bank ranking, just before Pakistan. Yemen is 99!!!!

    There are administrative procedures in the US that also take months and you need to follow up at every stage and appoint a lawyer – has anybody had to deal with immigration issues? It is not impossible to change your place of residence, it is time consuming and complicated and this is not a conspiracy by sectarian parties, it is pure inefficiency and ‘takhallof’.

    Posted by Nadim Shehadi | May 13, 2012, 4:49 am
  92. Nadim,

    I think the question is where the reality of the situation is. Is Ghassan’s assertion that political calculations are part of the reason why the system has been kept intentionally difficult true?

    I would suggest that making changes to make things like this easier would be something everyone would support. So why not make the suggestion and implement it?

    Posted by Gabriel | May 13, 2012, 11:26 am
  93. Who is Shadi Al-Mawlawi?

    Posted by Monolith | May 13, 2012, 3:22 pm
  94. Gabriel ,
    I am assuming that you are aof a Lebanese origin but that you have not lived in the country for any length of time except as a tourist. If that is so then let me explain how things are done in Lebanon, in this field, and then you decide whether there is politics involved or not.
    Put yourself in a Lebanese village/town that has grown over the years from an electoral list of 2500 voters to 3600 voters while the town has over 15000 residents. You ask how can that be? Simple really, the “indigenous” population have acted to disenfranchise the “carpetbaggers”. Assume further that this village/town is about 15 miles away from Beirut , is at an altitude of 850 meters (2500 ft) and is surrounded by Pine trees and fresh air.
    As real estate prices in Beirut skyrocketed , this town became a bedroom community for 10,000 new commers who rent, build their own homes/villas or condominiums.
    The only people who have the right to vote in both municipal elections and parliamentary ones, since all elections use the same electoral lists, are the original inhabitants and they like it that way. The new residents enjoy the clean environment, the restaurants and nightclubs , pay some municipal taxes but do not vote. They do not complain because they probably hail from various towns within 40-60 miles where they have parents and relatives and where they are considered indigenous. That is where they vote.
    This not so hypothetical town probably has its own local zaim whose family has been in control of the municipality ever since independence and the locals like it that way. Merit is not a part of the equation, it is tradition.
    To complicate things a little bit assume that the original residents were Greek Orthodox while most of the 10,00 new residents are Maronites, Sunnis and some Shia. Do you think that they would look favourably on creating a district/area in Mount Lebanon that is dominated by Sunni “tourists”? Of course not.
    Is this fair? Is there any real opposition to this antiquated system?No and NO. Fairness has nothing to do with it since up untill know the municipal responsibilities are very limited and there is no such tradition as open government. No one has ever raised a serious challenge to this system because of the fear that many of the electoral lists that show a large amount of religious clusters in Lebanon will become less “pure” and so more difficult to manage electorally. How could a local zaim maintain his power if he can neither guarantee his election to the municipality or cannot deliver his town to one party or another 🙂 Those in control are happy with this inefficient system and the Lebanese public , in general, follows its traditional leaders blindly. Such attitudes would change over time but it does take more than one generation to see any meaningful shifts. Revisit this topic 2050:-)

    Posted by gkaram | May 13, 2012, 11:01 pm
  95. Why is Gemayel declining to participate in this snappy branding campaign?:

    The Kataeb leader also said that he does not agree with the rest of March 14’s leaders on the formation of a Lebanese National Council for the coalition.

    “We are a political movement, we are not a national council and we cannot pretend to be.”

    To read more: http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=395312#ixzz1uoUEw7uW
    Only 25% of a given NOW Lebanon article can be republished. For information on republishing rights from NOW Lebanon: http://www.nowlebanon.com/Sub.aspx?ID=125478

    Now, whose brilliant idea is this? Could it be an effort of that wily Presbyterian, Jeffrey D Feltman Sir and his Senatorial fellow traveler?



    Posted by lally | May 14, 2012, 1:12 am
  96. “For PR to be effective in breaking the monopolies of the traditional parties, we need large districts, true, but open lists would be a desideratum as well.”
    You omit the threshold in %. Threshold in Israel is 2%. The smaller the districts are, the higher the threshold would tend to be. For example in Germany it is 5%. So there is a compensating effect.
    But the 1 district used in Israel is combined with a closed list, so they basically vote for the leader of the party and not for a local representative. It would be much more interesting for Lebanon that citizens vote for candidates and not for their belonging parties. You need to emphasize the relation between voters and their representative, not the contrary. Otherwise your concern for smaller parties is useless.

    Also the “PR” has a tendency to soften fluctuations, So if you loose 5% of voters, you will loose vaguely 5%, and not 15%. They may decide that doing this would help them rule together, making Lebanon less subject to shifting in the ruling majority.

    The crucial point is that the “PR”, need pretty complicated tuning. Different methods of computing the rounding can influence significantly the number of seats.

    Posted by Crazybear | May 14, 2012, 3:47 am
  97. “The crucial point is that the “PR”, need pretty complicated tuning.”


    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 14, 2012, 7:12 am
  98. Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil has ordered hospitals in Tripoli to treat all the wounded from the clashes.

    Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Local-News/2012/May-14/173316-1-killed-10-wounded-in-renewed-fighting-in-north-lebanon.ashx#ixzz1uqDgFeLS
    (The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)

    Anyone tell me what’s wrong with this “order” by the Health Minister? What is the function of the hospitals? Selling manqouche?

    Posted by danny | May 14, 2012, 7:18 am
  99. Ghassan,

    You would be right in your assessment. I never did live in Lebanon, and so I don’t really know how the system works.

    I also agree with your reading- I think it is quite clear there is a political calculus behind the system. That much seems rather evident to me, and what I was trying to understand from Nadim was whether or not he saw something political above and beyond mere “Takhaluf” as reasons for why the system is the way it is.

    That said, I think the non-hypothetical example you provide is an interesting one. I certainly can see the argument on both ends. I agree there well could be (and probably certainly is) the sectarian dimension to the argument. But it seems to me that the rules for the “Village” often is so very drastically different from the rules of the “City”- even in the Western world, is it not?

    Certainly here in Canada, you will find lots of “Village” communities- NIMBYers- who unite and veto a train system in their hood, or a windfarm, or, or. I do have sympathy for those villagers- who see large properties being bought in their areas, with massive real-estate developments happening. I don’t know how much say those people have in the developments that take place in their backyard- and by extension the massive population increases that take place in those villages- that turn them from tiny village- to bigger towns… is something the “locals” have very little say on.

    From my own travelling- and comparing Lebanon to other countries where such historic “villages” still exist- to see a Lebanon that has been overdeveloped, scarred with non-visionary development is I think something rather sad, and I do believe that the people best able to resist, or “control” or “influence” what happens on their turf- and it is their turf ultimately- are the villagers themselves.

    Posted by Gabriel | May 14, 2012, 10:18 am
  100. I have heard and seen many strange things in Lebanon but it seems that stranger and weirder things are always coming:-)
    How can anyone use the idea of God and religion to prevent a 24 year old ,in perfect mental and physical health, of the the most basic freedom of movement and expression during the year 2012. That is insanity.
    Benin has the right to worship whoever she wants to. anyway she wants to whenever she wants to and anytime she wants to. %^&$ these politicians and religious men ..

    Posted by gkaram | May 14, 2012, 8:06 pm
  101. Ghassan,

    She was “handed” over to her family by the “Archbishop” of Bekaa….Is she a piece of furniture? …and some people call us self loathing!! This is bloody insane!

    Posted by danny | May 15, 2012, 6:31 am
  102. gonna have to put off that conversion to Judaism ceremony i was planning for this summer vacation in Khiam ! 🙂

    Posted by Vulcan | May 15, 2012, 7:49 am
  103. Vulcan,

    Good idea. Carry a yellow flag, and you’ll be good to go.

    BTW – Does anyone know if there’s a “Nakba Day” in Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Algeria, or Iraq or is that just something they do in Israel/Palestine?

    Posted by Akbar Palace | May 15, 2012, 7:52 am
  104. It seems I’m always 2 steps behind. Ghassan, you should link to the stories so I can follow :).

    Quite an interesting plot going on there. I’m curious… what is Hassan Nasrallah saying about all of this? (Sorry, I just saw a report that the Angry Arab posted on the story on his site about some Sheikh fulminating about the “abduction” of bewitched girl.

    Posted by Gabriel | May 15, 2012, 1:12 pm
  105. Anti-Israel Mental Disorder Confirmed

    Turkey villagers see Israeli spy in migratory bird

    Our correspondent says that wildly implausible conspiracy theories take root easily in Turkey, with alleged Israeli plots among the most widely believed.


    Posted by Akbar Palace | May 16, 2012, 10:53 am
  106. Who is Shadi Mawlawi?

    Investigations into the case of Shadi Mawlawi have not yet proven that the detainee maintains any organizational link with al-Qaeda despite his support for the organization and its ideology and despite his online interaction with people in Afghanistan. The investigation was also not able to say with certainty that Mawlawi was in the process of plotting terrorist acts on Lebanese territory. However, they only revealed that the detainee supports rebels in Syria and went to Syria several times to take part in combat operations or to deliver funds.

    25-year-old Shadi Mawlawi, who was imprisoned for his Islamist links, is still detained by the military judiciary along with a Jordanian citizen suspected of being a member of al-Qaeda.

    According to well-informed security sources, the Jordanian is a pharmacist that was in Syria from where he flew to Tehran. He was turned away by Iranian authorities, stopping in Syria on his way to Lebanon, staying in contact with Mawlawi throughout. The sources added that the Jordanian was suspected of funding opposition members in Syria and that he was planning on sending an additional $20,000 to the rebels.

    The dragnet of investigations also snared a Qatari national who was suspected of funding rebels in Syria. However, the charges were not substantiated as no links were found between him and Mawlawi and he was later released.


    Posted by Monolith | May 16, 2012, 3:07 pm
  107. A society that never masters the basics will spend all its time going back to square one.
    Rule of law in the Pretense Republic is the full manifestation of vigilantism., the law be damned. None of the major political camps in Lebanon seems to have any respect for laws that it does not approve off. and hence the inevitable negotiation with those that can make the loudest threats.

    الاتفاق على فتح الطرقات في طرابلس مقابل اعادة التحقيق مع المولوي

    Posted by gkaram | May 16, 2012, 3:34 pm
  108. “The PSP leader also noted that calls for endorsing an electoral law based on the proportional representation system were [“aimed at electing a submissive parliament and a president who is worse than (former) president (Emile) Lahoud.”]”

    Would somebody explain to this amateur what Joumblatt meant by this.

    Posted by Maverick | May 16, 2012, 7:07 pm
  109. Maverick,
    The only possible confusion is that to many general security and ISF are not separate when in fact they are. Jumblatt and many in the March 14 camp are claiming that Shadi should not have been arrested because others who are in effect more complicit but have March 8 leanings have not been arrested. This is strange logic for a rational society but not for a country where the rule of law does not exist.
    It has been very clear for almost a year that Jumblatt is adamant that the PR electoral law is being introduced not because its outcome would be a more representative society but because its outcome will strengthen the hands of the pro Syrian crowd. Don’t forget that the next parliament is crucial since it will elect the next president and so if PR can assure a strong pro Syrian majority then that will also assure a pro Syrian president, read Suleiman Frangieh.
    There has never been a democratic regime in the Arab world ,in history. This is not about to change. Democracy goes way beyond the franchise. It requires a responsible and an accountable electorate in addition to a free press . None of this is something that will occur overnight. Lebanon might be the “freest and most democratic in the middle east” but that is not saying much.

    Posted by gkaram | May 16, 2012, 7:51 pm
  110. Strange, on that argument , when will it ever be the right time for PR? When will Lebanon shake off Syrian Involvement completely in its internal affairs?…Whoever said that Lebanon will never be free until there is Democracy in Syria. It is sounding more and more true everyday.

    Posted by Maverick | May 16, 2012, 11:34 pm
  111. #111, The right time will be when the country is relaxed enough for the “pretty complicated tuning” that PR “crucially” needs to be a good system?

    Posted by mj | May 17, 2012, 3:42 am
  112. Nadim,

    Your information on the subject of registry transfer in Lebanon is outdated.

    The interior ministry has forbidden this procedure for some time now.

    I would need a letter from the Interior Minister personally, to get the green light for the process to commence.

    Badda Wasta !!!!

    Posted by Monolith | May 17, 2012, 6:02 am
  113. gkaram said:

    There has never been a democratic regime in the Arab world ,in history. This is not about to change. Democracy goes way beyond the franchise.

    What do you mean by “beyond the franchise”?

    Why do you think democracy will not work in the Arab world?

    Posted by Akbar Palace | May 17, 2012, 6:42 am
  114. Gabriel,

    If you’re bored, you may find this article interesting. It starts our with a different narrative to the 6 Day War than the one you’ve been telling. No surprise of course.

    But in light of today’s challenges, I think Krauthammer, as usual, makes a great observation.


    Posted by Akbar Palace | May 17, 2012, 9:19 am
  115. AP, the article is quite interesting… And I couldn’t agree any more with it. You really ought to read what I write!

    As I wrote to AIG at the time, really Israel will always be in 1967 mode, always forced to be preemptive. In fact, I said Israel should be done with the issue once and forall!

    Just nuke those damn Arabs already

    Posted by Gabriel | May 17, 2012, 1:38 pm
  116. So, dear QN blog readers, I cannot change my registry from Aley to Beirut.

    Even though I was born in Beirut, lived there all my life and have no relatives, land, house or friends in Aley … the ministry of interior will not grant me the right to register myself as a Beiruti.


    Because “Aslak min weyn” is about as important and valuable a “commodity” as your religion is here.

    It’s political through and through, my dear Nadim.

    Posted by Monolith | May 17, 2012, 2:15 pm
  117. Monolith is right, as far as I know.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 17, 2012, 2:19 pm
  118. The best part was the Beiruti Mukhtar, absent-mindedly, defending the ministry’s decision by saying: “Aba’esh fi mahal!”.

    Not sure what he really meant by that 🙂

    Maybe the impossibility of Beirut maintaining their archaic paper archives?

    Posted by Monolith | May 17, 2012, 2:38 pm
  119. AP, the article is quite interesting… And I couldn’t agree any more with it. You really ought to read what I write!


    Oh, you wrote articles here? 😉

    As I wrote to AIG at the time, really Israel will always be in 1967 mode, always forced to be preemptive.


    I think that’s a bit simplistic. The war in Gaza was festering for years and thousands of rockets and mortars. ’73 was not pre-emptive. The last war in Lebanon wasn’t either.

    In fact, I said Israel should be done with the issue once and forall!

    Just nuke those damn Arabs already

    I don’t know what to make of your reply, because if you agreed with me, you wouldn’t feel the need to indulge in sarcasm.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | May 17, 2012, 2:40 pm
  120. Today’s Key Word: “Opposition”

    Looks like the Syrian Opposition has more enemies than friends:

    “We are convinced that the Syrian regime’s strongest ally is Israel,” he told the paper, adding that the international community’s lack of action in Syria stems from concerns for the Jewish State’s safety.

    Ghalioun reiterated the Syrian opposition’s position by which “the continued occupation of the Golan Heights severely undermines Syria’s national sovereignty, which it will only regain after the occupied territories are returned.”

    Asked about a recent statement made by a member of the opposition, by which Syria will establish relations with Israel after Assad’s fall, Ghalioun said: “Who is the fool who said such a thing?”

    As for Iran, Ghalioun stated “it is fighting a real war against the Syrian people.

    “Some Iranian officials made contact with us, but we made it clear to them that if they want to ensure their interests in the future Syria, they must stop supporting the Syrian regime, or at the very least issue a statement saying they are not against recognizing the future of the Syrian people in a democratic state like all other countries.”


    Posted by Akbar Palace | May 19, 2012, 1:14 pm
  121. AP,

    I think one would be hard pressed to find a pro-opposition Syrian, who believes that “the international community’s lack of action in Syria does not mainly stem from concerns for the Jewish State’s safety”, the fall of Asad’s regime could be in the interest of Israel, and the US/Israel would truly like to see democracy established in Syria one day.

    Posted by Badr | May 20, 2012, 12:44 pm
  122. QN, lost for words?

    Posted by Monolith | May 20, 2012, 3:45 pm
  123. Badr,

    I think you changed the quote, so I’m not 100% sure we’re on the same page:

    …the international community’s lack of action in Syria stems from concerns for the Jewish State’s safety.

    But yes, Israel and the US wants democracy, and the opposition wants democracy as well. I’m a bit disappointed (but not surprised) that the opposition is so concerned about the “Zionist Entity” at this point in time. They should be looking for allies.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | May 20, 2012, 7:37 pm
  124. Is it just me or has it be kind of weird in here lately? Talking about registering to vote in Aley and whathaveyou. QN absent…
    Is anyone else noticing the slow slide in to civil war that is happening in Lebanon? Am I the only one reminded of the 1974-75 “slow escalation” that eventually boiled over into full-blown conflict?

    And I hate to say this was only a matter of time too. Some of us have seen this coming since 2008 (at least).

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 21, 2012, 1:13 pm
  125. Hi BV,

    I hear you and this is the last time I post on Lebanon matters here and anywhere. I used to blog regularly, disgust got me to drop that and to post now and then. Now I am done with that too.

    You are right the country is going to hell for reasons that have been obvious and should be obvious to those with even half-a-brain, but that’s asking too much.

    We burned the country for Palestine in the 70’s, and for Iran/Syria in 2006. We will now do it again for Syria.

    In the meantime our bloggers, and our useless intellectuals, and everyone on else is busy telling me the usual idiocies: it’s business as usual, haram the tourist season, asking should I register in Aley or at the embassy, gee what election law will we apply, its a conspiracy, the chaab is nice, the ruling class is the problem…

    I’ll be conceited and say: all these people are missing the ball and will never ever find it.

    Goodnight Old Country

    Posted by OldHand | May 21, 2012, 1:53 pm
  126. Bad Vilbel,

    You can’t blame the usual suspect this time.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | May 21, 2012, 2:03 pm
  127. BV,
    It would be interesting to go back to the archives and see who has been predicting what for the past 4-5 years. I still stand by my view that HA ‘s power will only diminish over time. Back to the subject at hand, I had a post on the topic both at Yalibnan and my blog on the subject:


    Posted by gkaram | May 21, 2012, 2:23 pm
  128. BV,

    Mustapha at the Beirut Spring Blog is doing a good job covering the current events in Lebanon. He is from Tripoli and has some interesting insights.

    Posted by Monolith | May 21, 2012, 3:31 pm
  129. @ OldHand

    My feeling is that when people start taking an interest in the mundane issues like how to change one’s location of voter registration, what kind of electoral law would suit them best, and how to get involved in their country’s political life even when living abroad, this is actually a positive sign.

    The country has been “going to hell” for a very long time. And yet, it hasn’t. There are no magical fixes for Lebanon, or any country. There is only slow, incremental change, small successes amid regular setbacks, etc.

    I doubt you will actually stay away very long. And that’s a good thing. We need more passionate observers, not less.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 21, 2012, 3:52 pm
  130. Old Hand,

    We are not acquainted.

    I am sorry that my personal desire as a Lebanese, who has lived all his life in Beirut, but whose personal registry and voting rights are stuck in a Lebanese district I have less than zero interest in and should have voting rights within, bores you.

    In fact, if I was from Aley, had a house, land, family and friends there … I wouldn’t want a jerk like me voting within it whatsoever.

    Yet our government does not want to facilitate the reality of the demographic shift of Lebanese in the country throughout the last 30 years. To me, these demographic shifts are significant and worthy quantifying and assessing.

    I am not an “illegal” Lebanese immigrant in Beirut living in some quarters provided to me by whatever or whoever. I own the apartment I live within in Beirut.

    I would like to vote for people I would want to hold personally responsible if the ABC’s of their campaigns and promises are not met within the district I reside in and feel should have a right to vote in. I pay hefty municipal fees in Beirut. Not in Aley.

    I want my vote to count and hold those I vote for accountable for it.

    I’m sorry it’s not as easy and excitable as voting on American Idol.

    Hope such trivial matters will not refrain you from sharing your good ideas on how we can bring forwards Lebanese society and the country to fruitfulness.

    Posted by Monolith | May 21, 2012, 4:35 pm
  131. I’ll attempt to reply to everyone in one comment:

    Akbar Palace,

    I don’t think you’ll find I’m one of the people who blamed the usual suspect in the past. I have maintained from day 1 that the Lebanese AND their leaders (who are a true reflection of the people, really) are to blame for 99% of what has befallen this ridiculous country since independence.


    Yeah, it would be interesting. I think you and I have seen eye to eye on most of this stuff since day 1. What I am alluding to here, to be more specific (and discounting a bit of the bigger picture vis a via the regional changes since 2008) is that after May 2008, I argued with many that no good could ever come from one side being armed and bullying the other side (I know you’re with me on this one). To the whole “resistance”/American plot/blahblah, there was always the simple argument that you could not have one side bully the other without expecting, eventually, the other side to arm and act in a similar fashion. The slow descent of M14 into complete irrelevance, and the quite rapid emergence of a more militant/extreme aspect of the so-called “Sunni street” was only a matter of time.
    And in all this, the state itself continues to be completely irrelevant and it never mattered if it was a Hariri or a Miqati in that seat.
    What kind of Army waits for an ok from the combatants before entering, claiming it didn’t want to put soldiers in harm’s way? (I am paraphrasing something the army commander said after the Tripoli clashes last week).
    Excuse me, but the army’s JOB is to be in harm’s way to protect the CITIZENS. And militamen’s sensibilities be damned. Go in shooting first, asking questions later…At least that’s what real armies do.


    Normally, I’d agree with you. I’ve been one of the people who’s complained for years that we needed to stop worrying about American and Israeli plots and threats, and be more concerned with education, jobs, local governance, etc.
    So on the surface, your comment resonates..But this is Lebanon, and apparently even this most basic of rationales fails to apply in our twilight zone of a country. I completely fail to see the point of discussing administrative reform and voting protocols, when militiamen are taking over the 2nd largest city with complete impunity (And no, having the “other militiamen” firing back at them doesn’t count as “punishment”, when i say “impunity”, I am referring to accountability to the state, the rule of law, and the citizenry).

    Yalla! I continue to be glad I’m done with that country. Now I just need to convince my parents to move closer to me (as in, leave Lebanon), before the shit hits the fan for good.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 21, 2012, 4:56 pm
  132. If Tripoli decides to waver municipal taxes on rents and offer lower corporate taxes for me to establish a business there … I might seriously consider moving my business to it. Especially if my business relies on labor.

    There’s none of that in lebanon.

    Posted by Monolith | May 21, 2012, 5:13 pm
  133. Same goes for the South.

    It is the central government’s responsibility to offer investors serious incentives to build factories and businesses in the South to bring the population there up to par with the rest of the country.

    Posted by Monolith | May 21, 2012, 5:20 pm
  134. The central government is too busy sitting on its hands and trying not to offend the sensibilities of this or that militia chief to look into investment incentives… 🙂

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 21, 2012, 5:30 pm
  135. That’s what we’re there for.

    That’s what it means to be Lebanese and to understand what needs to be done to get the rest of us up to par with the world’s realities and to leave no Lebanese behind.

    How else can we succeed together under one flag.

    Posted by Monolith | May 21, 2012, 5:46 pm
  136. BV,

    I hear you. Very frustrating. But my feeling is that the Mikati govt has handled this pretty well thus far. Probably an unpopular opinion around these parts.


    I agree with you, again.

    Blog post coming soon, I promise. Currently preoccupied with navigating 20 out-of-town visitors around Harvardmageddon.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 21, 2012, 5:49 pm
  137. QN,

    How exactly do you figure the government has handled this well? Letting the thugs shoot it out until their bosses (political decision) tell them to stop? Asking permission before deploying the army?
    I do not follow at all where you get the “handled this pretty well” part. Please explain.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 21, 2012, 6:00 pm
  138. Bashar is smarter than he appears. He has a Middle East version of Machiavelli written throughout the ages handed down and spoon fed by his father and he’s aides. The first chapter and the last chapter is titled Divide and Rule explaining how to incite strife and excite the passions to stoke the fires of discord. The extreme elements of the Sunna street are being targeted . Not only the Salafis, but your rag tag groups which serves a multi-purpose goal.1) create a scapegoat that everyone despises, especially the West.
    2) Drive a wedge between the LF and their allies weakening M14 altogether
    3) Create a deterrence
    4) Show what can happen if the Syrian regime are no longer in power.i.e everything goes up sh**t creek.
    The idiots are playing right into his trap. The regime and HA are loving this at the moment.

    Posted by Maverick | May 21, 2012, 6:54 pm
  139. BV,

    it seems that QN has dismissed 2006 and 2008 and all the events since. Blowing up half of the country; intimidating black shirts; daily clashes in Bekaa etc..Bearded men galore are not enough to call that Hell! Well more restaurants are opening up in Kaslik and Downtown.

    This was coming in small increments! Miqati “government” has handled it well? How’s that? not sending the army to take out these militiamen in Tripoli or Tarek Jedide? How have they handled it well? By firing on a Sheik’s car and killing him! That’s a freaking strong army made of dim wits!

    Lebanon that most of think of; has always been the figment of our collective imagination! stay tuned; more to come as Bashar scrambles to scramble Lebanon.

    Posted by danny | May 21, 2012, 7:01 pm
  140. @ 139

    Spot on…and not only HA loving it; they are participating actively in creating that mayhem!

    Posted by danny | May 21, 2012, 7:02 pm
  141. Rumor has it that the sheik’s vehicle stocked with all sorts of weapons. That could be a reason why he didn’t stop for the checkpoint.

    Dimwits all around.

    Posted by lally | May 21, 2012, 8:42 pm
  142. New post up guys.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 21, 2012, 9:30 pm

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