Circus in town

Prime Minister Najib Mikati speaks during an interview with The Daily Star at the Grand Serail in Beirut, Monday, July 2, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

In political terms, Lebanon is quite the place these days: It has a diverse array of local political parties, and a number of foreign powers making their presence felt. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have much in the way of a government, because its policy on Syria – disassociation – is applied to just about every other front, even if it involves purely local matters.

A quick inventory of the national scene reveals the following. An open sit-in in Sidon, which is disrupting people’s livelihoods. An assassination attempt in Beirut, on a senior March14 politician. The release of military personnel as part of a murder investigation, with locals in Akkar reacting by blocking roads. The country’s Internet is down. The tourism sector is in shambles. Crime and kidnapping are rampant.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and his government act as if they are living in another world, and talking about things being under control, as if they are blind to what is taking place around them.

In other words, the circus is in town, as Mikati’s Cabinet provides entertaining shows and theatrics, on a nearly daily basis.

Parliament and the Cabinet were thrown into disarray this week, because even the simplest of issues – full-time employment for longtime contract workers at Electricite du Liban – is the kind of thing that sets off a “crisis.”

The Mikati Cabinet of one political color, as it was described when it took office last year, has yet again fallen victim to serious infighting. Relations between two pillars of the government are again in question, and the unhappiness of one group, the Free Patriotic Movement, was enough to derail this week’s session of the Cabinet.

At a time when senior ministers and officials should be spending their time solving the various problems faced by the country, they are putting their efforts in figuring out their next truce, so that the government can “function.”

It’s business as usual, and nothing is working, unless excuses are considered a valuable national industry.

The telecommunications minister feels no shame in appearing on his friendly television station, run by the FPM, to tell the public the following: Lebanon doesn’t have a backup when it comes to the Internet. Of course, he has been negotiating with Cyprus for “five months” to secure such an alternative, but doesn’t believe it is his responsibility to explain why the talks haven’t led anywhere.

The circus is on – there is a “show” nearly every day, but since it is a circus, perhaps only children are deriving any entertainment out of it.

It is difficult to govern when hypocrisy, denial, failure and paralysis are the main achievements. In fact, the entire political system is at stake, and the first step toward fixing things involves seeing this government step aside, and letting someone else have the opportunity to find solutions, instead of offering excuses.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 06, 2012, on page 7.




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