The news that Lebanon’s Parliament failed once again to convene Tuesday wasn’t surprising, but it remains a shocking development in a country suffering from political turbulence and in need of initiatives to help it weather the storm.
As if the failure to deal with the legislative agenda wasn’t enough, there is the issue of Lebanon’s race against time. Thanks to fast-moving developments on various fronts – the socio-economic situation, the refugee crisis and security – it’s easy to conclude that the legislative agenda, which has accumulated over recent months and years, pales in comparison to the challenges of even just the last few weeks.
In other words, politicians can’t grapple with the requirements of the recent past, not to mention those of the present and the future. The political system is deadlocked, and there is little hope of forming a new government soon. From time to time, politicians talk about the need to avoid sensitive issues and focus on responding to people’s long-standing grievances and needs, but not even this generates agreement.
Meanwhile, members of Parliament feel no shame in continuing to draw their salaries while putting up a big zero when it comes to productivity and performance. They appear to be acting like a protection racket, since MPs are fully aware that while the legislature holds together (even if it doesn’t meet), they can claim that they represent a functioning institution.
At the core of the paralysis in Nijmeh Square is a fairly clear-cut question involving the legitimacy of sessions of the legislature under a caretaker government. But with national institutions so weak, no one is expecting any side to produce an authoritative answer to the question – for example, legislative sessions are fine, but require a special decree or should only deal with items of extraordinary importance.
It’s easier for everyone to just sit back and take an attitude of “we can’t rock the boat” because the regional situation remains too volatile, or some other excuse.
Meanwhile, with every passing day, Lebanon moves in the inevitable direction of becoming a failed state. Fewer and fewer people have any respect for official institutions, even though politicians regularly lecture the public on the importance of said bodies.
Putting politics in the freezer is not a prudent way of doing business – all it does is erode the capacity of institutions to act when the long-awaited green light finally comes and they can again convene Parliament. In the interim, momentum is lost, and state institutions continue to suffer from the war of attrition being waged against them by Lebanon’s own politicians.
The public is tired of hearing about the possibility that Parliament might convene. All people want to hear about are tangible, real-world solutions to their problems, and not the latest episode in a dismal political soap opera.