Heartening hint

A general view of Koura, north of Lebanon, Tuesday, July 10, 2012. (The Daily Star/Antoine Amrieh)

Sunday’s by-election in Koura, which maintained the political status quo in the north Lebanon district, may have given little indication of any winds of change, but it did provide a positive hint of what may come during next year’s parliamentary election.

The vote took place amid a relaxed and calm climate, and the events were relatively incident-free, a fact that is particularly significant given the current tension that can be detected seeping into the country, and the overtones that were ascribed to the election by some of its participants and the media.

This bodes well for the possibility that the 2013 parliamentary elections may operate equally as smoothly and trouble-free.

The turnout in Koura, too, is a positive indicator for what might occur next year across the country. Figures were close to that of the last general election; a heartening indication given that by-elections are notorious for producing apathy among voters. Such a high turnout suggests that voters have not lost faith that elections are the best place to settle their divisions.

For all the valid criticisms that can be leveled at them, such as by this newspaper, the Lebanese authorities should be commended for the smooth running of this election.

It has of course not been free of accusations of controversial practices: of bribery or of expatriates being flown in to boost votes, but such tactics are sadly still par for the course in Lebanon. The election in Koura cannot have been expected to have been free of all controversy, but the balance has been on the correct side.

Overall, the events in Koura Sunday can be celebrated. It is to be hoped that the Lebanese show the same degree of awareness and commitment to democracy when they come to vote in next year’s parliamentary elections.

It is crucial the country’s residents believe that the ballot box is the correct place for their political desires to be heard, and that differences should not rather be resolved on the streets, by threats or by violence.

Looking at some of the recent events in the country, it can be tempting to assume that the Lebanese’s trust in their democratic system has faltered of late, that, frustrated by the speed of change and the internecine parliamentary bickering, they have begun to believe that having trust in their politicians is no longer worthwhile.

Should such a situation take hold among a majority of the Lebanese, it could lead the entire country astray, as the impact of some of the most recent frustrations has hinted at.

The results in Koura were never going to drastically alter the political landscape, but they have at least provided hope that by next year’s elections Lebanon will be in a strong position to be able to highlight its credentials as one of the leading countries in the region when it comes to the democratic process.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 16, 2012, on page 7.




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