Hollow symbol

A general view of the Lebanese Parliament in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, April 17, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

In their apparently fruitless and interminable search for a new election law, Lebanese politicians appear to be playing little more than a game with the democratic aspirations of the citizens they are meant to represent.

Either way, the task should have been embarked upon, in earnest, four years ago, not on the eve of scheduled elections, as is now the case, leaving candidates insufficient time in which to prepare. If the elections even go ahead, that is.

For the current implication, from each side of the political spectrum, is that if all parties cannot agree on a law which ensures their myriad interests, a situation may arise in which politicians are happier to simply extend the mandate of Parliament – and with that those of the president and the Army commander.

So the situation which the country is now in – with precarious security, a minimum of social services, neglected infrastructure – threatens to continue for an unspecified time. The “failed state” tag so increasingly given to this little country will remain, and the standards of democracy rightly granted to citizens the world over will again be trampled on.

An extension of everything which frustrates the population, and pushes its promising young minds to leave the country, awaits. If the mandate of Parliament is extended in such a way it will thus not only be a crime against democracy but it will represent a crime against the younger generations of this country, who so desperately seek the chance to create their own futures here.

In a country which has always boasted of its democratic nature, 70 years after independence and the nation’s leaders are struggling to come to terms with the fact that – Syria distracted – Lebanon is as free as it has ever been to create its own electoral law, not one designed for a single term, or to enhance certain agendas, but one designed to withstand the test of time.

Around the region nascent democracies have been holding elections, and across the border Syrians are fighting and dying to ensure their children have the right to freedoms they themselves have been denied for years. And yet here “democracy” is little more than a meaningless symbol, with sectarian preoccupations denying the success of a fairer electoral law.

During the Civil War years it was understandable, but still not acceptable, that the term of Parliament was often extended automatically. But, admittedly with outside interference, new presidents were brought in at least.

The Lebanese electorate now appears stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one hand they face an election once again governed by the 1960 electoral law, and on the other hand they face a renewal of the current Parliament and its trappings. Both situations, in slightly different ways, will maintain the status quo.

Someone, at a high level, ought to have the decency to explain this to the country, rather than pretend that discussions on the electoral law will go anywhere.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 09, 2012, on page 7.




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