Stuck in 1960

Ministers attend a Cabinet session at the presidential palace in Baabda, Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

Every Cabinet over the last few decades has vowed to introduce a new electoral system, and yet here the country is again, at a standstill, with politicians engaged in fruitless bickering while people’s everyday concerns go unaddressed.

As various parties put forth their different electoral reform proposals it is becoming increasingly clear that each one is doing so with only their own interests at heart.

Similarly, each party is well aware that should a rival devise an electoral system not to their liking it will be easily struck down, needing, as it would, two-thirds of the support of Parliament.

All the current signs seem to indicate so far that no consensus will be reached among all political parties before the scheduled parliamentary elections take place next year, and that the 1960 law will be used once again.

So then continues this interminable circle of vacuous proposals and empty words, designed to make each author appear virtuous and committed to a fairer system.

However, in reality, this deluge of electoral proposals represents little more than a game being played with the Lebanese people – a plan to distract them from the struggles of daily life.

Lying, it can be argued, has now become part and parcel of the foundational workings of Parliament and the government as a whole.

However, the long-held belief on the part of politicians that the Lebanese don’t see this endemic deception and hypocrisy for what it truly is, should ultimately be challenged.

For too long, politicians have muddled through their careers on the basis of lies and deceit, but the Lebanese have grown weary and cynical and are increasingly seeing them for what they are.

In addition, the current hullabaloo surrounding the issue of electoral reform is now widely being acknowledged to be little more than a smoke screen, designed to deflect attention from the true scandals of the day – the national security situation, social welfare and the issue of Syria.

And while the current situation points to elections either being held under this ancient law, or to an automatic extension of Parliament, governments across the region have managed to hold elections and votes on time over the last year, with only a few hiccups to be reported.

In fledgling democracies across the region, many war-wounded and post-revolutionary, ballot boxes have been filled on time.

Yet in Lebanon, which has always prided itself on understanding the essence of democracy, it appears that many of those allegedly tasked with representing the rights and freedoms of Lebanese citizens are more than happy to sit back and watch the scheduled election date fly by.

The date set for elections should be held as sacred. If not, what is the meaning of democracy? Should the electorate be expected to believe anything those in power say?

If politicians hope to retain any respect from the Lebanese people it is imperative that they are honest about what is happening.

It is only right that the electorate is told sooner rather than later that Lebanon’s democratic health isn’t quite what it has been made out to be.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 15, 2012, on page 7.




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