Lebanon News

Intellectuals hope for president with vision to build nation

With the end of Sleiman’s term looming, Lebanon’s MPs have yet to elect his successor. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

TRIPOLI, Lebanon: The inability of MPs to choose a successor to President Michel Sleiman has cast serious doubts over the efficiency of the electoral system currently in place. Some say that part of the problem is that the entire process of electing a president is restricted to the political elite.

Intellectual elites, even with the wealth of knowledge and expertise they bring to the table, remain separated from the political process and don’t appear to have a say in choosing their president.

But if did, what characteristics would they look for in the next president of the republic?

Dr. Nizar Younes, an economy and engineering professor and one of Lebanon’s leading intellectuals, is among those who champion the need for change and development.

After an unsuccessful run for Parliament in the north, Younes decided to publish a series of writings revolving around Lebanon’s decaying political system.

“In order to face dire challenges, presidential candidates must present an ambitious vision to build a country,” Younes said when asked about the main characteristics needed in a future president.

He explained that the government would be able to act on various social, economic, cultural, environmental and educational levels grounded on the president’s vision.

A strong believer that the president must serve the people, Younes emphasized that in a country where religious and political divisions were deeply integrated within the society, unity was not an easy goal.

“Lebanon did not come out of nowhere,” Younes said.

“On the contrary, it is nestled in the heart of history and the world needs to know about the heroes of our nation.”

Molded by a different political experience, Roula Mourad’s is one of the strongest voices among Lebanese women. Hailing from the rural northern village of Akkar, Mourad is the founder of the women’s party 10452, Lebanon’s size in square kilometers.

After majoring in French literature, Mourad founded the party to prove that women are capable of protecting their rights and that political parties must pave the road for change. She was partly motivated by the absence of any political parties led by a woman.

“Women take responsibility for their actions [because] it affects their children’s future,” Mourad asserted. “This makes us keen on protecting civil peace and on developing our political system.”

In Mourad’s opinion, the presidential post must be filled with someone capable of working on a “national level.” In addition, the president who fits into Mourad’s vision must be neutral, unbiased and aware of the various defense strategies. “Supporting and [creating] a strong army is a must since one of the main reasons why we’re torn apart is the conflict between the theories of resistance and army.”

She said she hoped the next president would pay more attention to the issues affecting civil society and would help get more women in government. “In the Lebanese political system there is a sectarian quota that cannot be denied. This is why we are in need of a women’s quota,” Mourad added.

For both Younes and Mourad, the new president must be a good leader, have courage and be intelligent.

“The president must be aware of all the problems affecting the world we live in,” Younes said.

“The country’s leader must have an economic plan capable of developing the country,” Mourad said.

Dr. Walid Arbid, an international affairs professor who has both educational expertise and sporadic political experience, believes the position should be filled by an exceptional leader who can deal with the current religious and political turmoil.

“With executive power in the hands of the Cabinet, there’s no doubt the presidential post is not as strong as it used to be,” Arbid said. “However, the president has a symbolic power that can be used in forming national unity based on what society wants rather than [what the] political classes [want].”

Although regional and international complications have contributed to Lebanon’s dire internal situation, Arbid is confident that with the right president, things can change for the better.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 12, 2014, on page 4.




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