BEIRUT: Moderates no longer stand a chance in Lebanon because all political leaders have an interest in maintaining strife in the country, according to National Bloc leader Carlos Edde, a staunch defender of single-member parliamentary districts.
“Unfortunately, political leaders have an interest in maintaining strife in the country because when they run for the elections they have nothing to offer the people expect hatred and fear. This is their way of mobilizing voters,” Edde told The Daily Star in an interview at his Beirut residence.
“You also have the clergy, who do not want to give up their powers for the sake of a civil society. ... All these groups have incited so much hatred that moderates are no longer to reach the hearts of the people.”
Edde, a two-time runner-up in parliamentary elections, said that none of the electoral proposals put forward by different political groups sought to bring about constructive change.
“All electoral reform [proposals] have been made thinking of the results and not of representation,” said Edde, who favors a single-member-district voting system as used in France, the U.S. and several other countries.
The National Bloc’s election proposal supports dividing Lebanon into 128 districts, with MPs elected in one or two stages.
A candidate who secures more than 50 percent of the votes would win in the first round, otherwise a second and final round would be required between the top two vote-getters from the first round.
Edde, 57, was a part of coalition tickets when he ran twice for a Maronite seat in Kesrouan and Jbeil against the lists fielded by Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement.
He succeeded as party leader his uncle Raymond Edde, a long-time MP for Jbeil who always championed the single-member district.
Edde said that by revamping the electoral system with single-member districts, control over Parliament by major parties would be broken, giving individuals a chance at victory.
“Candidates won’t have to beg to be on a list of a major party and voters will have a wider chance of interaction with their future representatives,” he said.
Edde also blamed the “list system” for reproducing the same lawmakers over the years, as voters’ options remain limited.
“There is a question that’s in everyone’s mind: Why is it that, after seeing such a bad performance by both the March 8 and March 14 [camps], the elections bring us the same people?” asked Edde.
“Is it that the Lebanese do not know how to elect? No. It is the system that forces them to do so, because when they vote through the list system, whether they are in the majority or the opposition, their choices are very limited.”
Edde, a former ally of the March 14 coalition, said that he withdrew from the group because it “failed the people and mismanaged the cause.”
He said his final pullout from the coalition was caused by his disapproval of resorting to Qatari-sponsored mediation in the wake of civil strife in May 2008.
“I have been saying since 2005 that March 8 has the worst cause and best management of their cause and vice versa for the March 14, they have the best cause with the worst management of it,” he said.
As for the tense security situation in Lebanon, Edde said attacks earlier this week on four Muslim scholars from Dar al-Fatwa, Sunni’s highest religious authority, were not a coincidence.
“What happened with the two sheikhs is not an accident; it’s a way to raise the stakes and increase tension between two grand communities in Lebanon, the Sunnis and the Shiites,” he said.
“Many sides have interests in maintaining strife in Lebanon: Israel, Syria and even Sunni radicals will use the conflict with other communities as an excuse to justify their presence.”
Edde also said it was only normal for Lebanon to be affected by what is happening in neighboring Syria, which is the country’s only “access” to the Arab world.
“The more the Syrian regime is in trouble, the more they would want to extend strife [in Lebanon],” he said.
Edde added that when he ran for Parliament in 2005, he was aware he would lose but he wanted to convey a message that the crisis with the Syrian regime was not over.
“I wanted to ring an alarm bell that even the post-Syrian pullout stage would be very critical, but unfortunately no one wanted to listen.”
However, the politician believes that the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad will eventually fall.
“I cannot conceive of a possibility where the Assad regime stays in power. It will absolutely fall,” Edde said. “As Arab history has shown, there is a point that these regimes cannot stay. Assad has dug his own grave.”
As for the U.S. inaction regarding the Syrian crisis, Edde said that President Barack Obama’s administration no longer wanted to be involved in the Middle East as it was before.
“There are those against the Syrian regime in the [United] States and another group that does not want to get involved in what is happening. I think that Obama does not want to increase America’s commitment in the region,” Edde said.
Edde also described the Islamist rise in the region as a “consequence” rather than a “cause.”
“I think that the Islamist rise is not a cause but a consequence of the Western policy of support for Israel and blocking any possibility for a real meaningful solution and the result of dictatorial regimes that have had absolutely no respect for the rights of their citizens,” he said.
“It’s like a pendulum. When it swings too far in one direction, it is bound to swing as far in the opposite direction. On the medium or long run, it will come to equilibrium,” he said.
“I think all people eventually want the same basic things. They want comfort, security, dignity and a steady job with a steady income. ... Islamists will eventually have to confront certain realities of job markets and economies and social reforms,” he added.
“Islamists will eventfully have to accommodate their point of view to reality or else they will be thrown out.”