Elections, Lebanon, Reform

Dissolving Parliament is the Key to Lebanon’s Trash Crisis (and Everything Else)

trash-protesterIn about an hour, downtown Beirut will be filled with angry protesters and jittery security forces. The “You Stink” demonstrations have grown in numbers, defiance, and ambition. In Lebanon, just like anyplace else, nothing succeeds like success. No longer content with a hasty fix to the trash collection crisis or even the proposed resignation of the Minister of the Environment, the movement’s organizers are now calling for full parliamentary elections and a reboot of the entire government.

I agree with this demand, but not because I think that Lebanon’s problems can be solved through elections. Dissolving Parliament carries with it the likelihood of further paralysis and stalemate, not the utopic rise of a generation of young and honest politicians who will safeguard the public trust. Lebanon has an abysmal record at negotiating political transitions. To recap the recent history of Lebanese government formations:

  • 2009: Saad Hariri takes office as prime minister on November 9, after five months of trying to form a cabinet following parliamentary elections 
  • 2011: Najib Mikati spends five months forming a cabinet after Saad Hariri’s government is brought down on January 12.
  • 2014: Tammam Salam spends nearly 11 months forming a cabinet following Mikati’s resignation in 2013.

If tonight’s protests resulted in the dissolution of Lebanon’s Parliament, very little would change. The country has effectively been operating under a caretaker regime in various guises since early 2011. After the extension of Parliament’s tenure in 2013, its constitutionality became suspect in the eyes of many Lebanese. And when the Presidency became vacant in 2014, the hollowing out of the government’s legitimacy was complete.

This is why dissolving Parliament is the only reasonable option left. Lebanon’s public institutions have never seemed more like shoddy pieces of stage scenery since the Syrian Army’s departure in 2005. It’s no surprise that the real estate magnates, construction conglomerates, generator monopolies, banking titans, and patronage networks that effectively run Lebanon’s economy should be able to thumb their nose at the government like a bunch of schoolchildren having their way with a helpless substitute teacher.

Parliamentary elections will not bring an end to corruption or inefficiency; they likely won’t even solve the trash crisis in the short term. But no progress can be made on any front — waste management, the electricity supply, telecoms reform, infrastructure development — without a government that possesses basic legitimacy.

The demands of the protest movement are aligned with the desires of a majority of Lebanese. Will the Lebanese MPs or party leaders currently fawning over the movement on Twitter or Facebook submit their resignations from Parliament or withdraw their party’s ministers from Cabinet? If the movement gathers steam, I wouldn’t be surprised if the impossible starts to look possible.


21 thoughts on “Dissolving Parliament is the Key to Lebanon’s Trash Crisis (and Everything Else)

  1. While I agree with you that not much will change if they dissolve parliament and most likely 3/4 of the same faces will return, the new blood and the fact that the current ruling elite’s aura of invincibility have dissapitated overnight, would usher in a new period of a slow and gradual process of recovery. The pols know now that they are not only competing with the other camp but also the hearts and minds of the population

    Posted by Maverick | August 29, 2015, 2:57 pm
  2. In the poster the man is holding up (in the news article QN has posted), does anyone see a picture of Nasrallah?

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 30, 2015, 1:10 am
  3. Yes I agree that parliamentary elections are the way forward, but the question is under which law. Catch 22 that will never end.

    Posted by AY | August 30, 2015, 3:28 am
  4. Barenboim, who has championed Palestinian causes, is not being allowed to perform in Iran. Further proof this agreement was nothing but a permission slip to allow Iranian aggression.


    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 30, 2015, 12:19 pm
  5. As you point out, QN, those actually running the country are the businesses and corporations who are not interested by constitutional changes or legitimacy since the current political situation best serves their interests (in profit making).

    The current political paralysis provides M14 and M8 with a prolonged status quo, with long term control of MPs no matter what election law is implemented (and both agree, for different reasons, on not turning over the reins of government to a cabinet of qualified technocrats who are not in the pocket of the monied interests).

    That leaves the “public sphere” or “civil society” concerned with a competent and legitimate government powerless politically. They do not hold any military power and their “voices” will be subsumed sooner or later under the aegis of the current shokehold of the usual sectarian politicians–while corporate interests may want to resolve customer satisfaction issues, they cannot afford to re-package their political management scheme, and the current alignment with foreign political interests cannot be changed by politicians if they want to preserve financial and military support of state (and non state) institutions.

    The best option now is for a new political alignment (a third way) led by marginal but competent non sectarian politicians to enter the political fold (through a grouping of current or future MPs, including poaching the decaying remnants of FPM and of those on the margins in M8 and M14 power structures) while not posing an immeduate threat and hoping for a possible opening in the future. But that is a long shot.

    Posted by Parrhesia | August 30, 2015, 5:57 pm
  6. I think Iran would be a wonderful third way alternative.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 30, 2015, 10:44 pm
  7. The only option I see for the YouStink movement to continue is by forming a political party and run for parliamentary election in opposition to all existing parties. Once it reaches Parliament, it can start to propose reforms and pass bills. If this movement is strong enough I should not be difficult for it to win seats enough to bring about a change to the whole system of governance in the country. If it is not strong enough then nothing will change even if an election is held now.

    And AP, buzz off, all this is none of you business. Go play somewhere else.

    Posted by roger | August 31, 2015, 1:13 pm
  8. Parliamentary elections in Lebanon now is like smoking on a gunpowder laden ship. What could possibly go wrong?
    Any analysis that does not take into account the possible downside of a proposal is dangerous in today’s middle east.
    The way I see it, Lebanese should not worrying about how to improve their situation. They should be worried about how to make sure it does not deteriorate further. Parliamentary elections with all the animosity and heated rhetoric that will ensue is a big mistake in the current situation. It is a risk whose upside is very limited and whose downside is not limited. Rocking the boat on a calm pond is not a good idea. Doing so in a middle of a hurricane at sea, well… good luck.

    Posted by AIG | August 31, 2015, 1:16 pm
  9. And AP, buzz off, all this is none of you business. Go play somewhere else.


    I’m all for the “You Stink” demonstrations. I think Hezbollah should solve the problem with the huge cash windfall they’ll be getting from Iran. The only problem is the yellow flags show dirt fairly easily.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 31, 2015, 1:36 pm
  10. Roger,

    Wishful thinking, the organisers of You Stink are hardly the political type. They are activists with a lot of passion and energy but not enough acumen to find their way through the maze of Lebanese politics. They still have not implemented a cohesive and worthy road map.but that’s not to say new blood with political background can ride on the co tails of this social movement to Parliaments doorstep. Which poses another question that AIG was hinting at;


    What exactly is the negative points and their consequences of a parliamentary election?

    Posted by Maverick | August 31, 2015, 5:51 pm
  11. Maverick, QN,

    I have a question to you. Do you anticipate any change in the representation in the HA dominated areas? Do you think the goons of HA/Amal will allow any “reformist ” to create a list and run against their divine warriors while they are neck deep in their Jihadi duties?

    make sure no smoking of cheap stuff! 😛

    Posted by Danny | August 31, 2015, 6:27 pm
  12. Danny,

    Only the good stuff, the cheap stuff are funnelled into Israel.

    While I don’t disagree on your view of HA, they are not the be all And end all of Lebanon’s political system. There are pressing concerns of which basic services are the minimum that need to be addressed and whomever gets elected next or appointed has huge pressure to deliver no matter what affiliation they belong to. The recent civil movement has shaken things up a bit. The demonstrators are creating a space for dialogue among the citizenry to draw road maps for the elite in power and they are starting to demand answers.There is an ever growing number of Lebanese sick to death with the current ruling class and it is a great opportunity to open the doors for new blood, even a handful of “Ziad Baroud ” and “charbel Nahhas” types can gradually chip away at the system and gather momentum.
    I’m not hopeful enough for major change, but I’m willing to entertain the thought of a gradual improvement if they go with elections now. The parliament needs a bit of Feng Shui that’s how desperate we’ve become.

    Posted by Maverick | August 31, 2015, 7:48 pm
  13. maverick,

    Again I’m happy you are consuming the good stuff and letting AP smoke up the imitation…
    The only change I see that’s going to happen is on the Christian side of the field; considering the iron grip that HA/Amal have over their “followers”…remember what they did with dissenters (Asaad, and the Mufti for Tyr I guess…His name escapes me now)…

    Marada are a bunch od thugs and sheep. FPM is fragmented and LF is wanna be centrists (LOL)….The only way I can see any change is by having a million people descending unto the square and kicking out everybody! That’s a revolution. Daring the HA?Amal thugs to stop them…

    Anyways; I think we are into the Maytag cycle. Nothing will come out of it in this rotten vicious cycle…

    Posted by Danny | August 31, 2015, 8:16 pm
  14. Why do you see change only from the Christian camp, if anything this camp is or has been on the down slide for some time and things aren’t getting any better thanks to the two rival Dons who have a choke hold on the community. The only time they agreed on something, it’s to monopolise The Christian voice and weaken the other parties and independent voices. While the FPM is losing membership at an alarming rate, due to the blatant hypocrisy of its leader and the idiocy of its next glorified leader to be, Sami Gemayel and other young hopefuls are making the most of it. Rai keeps blabbing and no one is listening.
    Change is going to come, if it does from two directions; the political parties that are currently in power especially the centrists who have read the tea leaves quite well and will adapt to the hostilities from the street and probably some re-alignment here and there between the major parties. Berri has called for an urgent dialogue, joumblatt has sent chehayeb to oversee the waste management file and you get the picture. They sense the fire at their feet and they do what they always do: survive.
    The second is going to come from not necessarily new faces but an injection of independent figures that were sidelined during the m8/m14 period.
    Who knows throw in a few reforms like the representational vote and we might see the end of the M8/M14 era.
    If you suggest a complete revolution to kick them all out, then you must be smoking the cheap stuff because you know that’s not going to happen plus I think you know who will swoop down and fill the vacuum the quickest.

    Posted by Maverick | August 31, 2015, 9:29 pm
  15. Maverik,

    There are so many downsides to a parliamentary election that I don’t know where to start. There are so many ways an election can destabilize Lebanon by highlighting and aggravating all the fault lines. Why can’t the Lebanese agree on a President? Same problem from a different angle; better not to have a president than have the fight if the president favors one of the sides. Let sleeping dogs lie instead of unleashing the dogs of war.

    And in any case, if M8 does not like the parliament, Berri has the power never to convene it and if M14 does not like it, they could stall a formation of any government since M8 would not dare form a government without M14 presentation (they would not want to set a precedent that could backfire on them in the future). So really, why bother? High risk, low upside, just not worth it.

    Posted by AIG | August 31, 2015, 9:48 pm
  16. I am with AIG on this. Under the current circumstances there’s no way HA will allow any parliamentary shifts. There is no use to vote in another bought out bimbos.

    Maverick I am elated from your optimistic outlook. The last dialogue session achieved one purpose. Nassy lied and smirked through it and promised that The State had the prerogative on war decisions and then attached Israel…2006; then he unleashed his dogs in 2007 and 2008.

    As for WJ. He tries to appease. Berri should not survive! He should go! He is NOT a “centrist”. He is HA’s bitch.

    Posted by Danny | September 1, 2015, 7:29 am
  17. oops…Attacked Israel.

    As for my comment for a possibility of a change on the Christian side of the street; it is because the “freedom” of expression is more then Muslim side! Just my opinion…Off course I’m with you regarding the so called leaders Claoun or SG.Their claim to fame should be the emigration of at least 500,000 Christians from Lebanon! Remember Carlos Edde? Whatever happened to him? If you think HA or FM will lose any control over their ridings please let me know how?

    Posted by Danny | September 1, 2015, 8:06 am
  18. Guys,

    All I’m saying in regards to change however slight, would also arrive from the political parties themselves since they know now the status quo cannot continue unabated due to the boil over from the streets. Things have changed now, it’s no longer a party or an alliance calling their people to the streets, it is strictly a civilian movement angry with the circumstances and all the ruling class with no exception. I’m not saying their ideology will change, or their stances but there is more pressure on them to at least negotiate a settlement, reshuffle a few cards, adopt new laws, in the slightest if they can acquiesce to popular demand and refer the waste management to the municipalities and invest in recycling, it would be s great victory and then let the dominoes fall.

    Posted by Maverick | September 1, 2015, 11:13 am
  19. What the heck is the “Free” Patriot Movement doing with Islamists, Jihadists, and Nazis?


    Posted by Akbar Palace | September 1, 2015, 11:24 am
  20. AP,

    I think you should take a break from your links… We have a topic at hand and rather stick to it. Now if you want to fly a kite. The wind is North easterly…Straight to Zabadani!

    Posted by Danny | September 1, 2015, 4:10 pm
  21. It’s not the link per se that’s frustrating, it’s the link with little or no background information or pertinent comment that’s annoying! The link should support but not substitute the comment, and should come with introductions, enticements and elaborations. I’m sure all of us here are drowning in links already (that come through e-mail, social media, etc.), hence without the right stimulus have no incentive to click on a particular link, to try and figure out why it was advertised here in the first place… And finally, no Wikipedia links please! They are very general and can get pretty long and arduous to read, and all the burden is on the reader to laboriously sift through them to find whatever might be specific or relevant to the topic at hand… 🙂

    Posted by Samer Nasser | September 1, 2015, 6:33 pm

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