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SUNDAY, 20 APR 2014
01:48 PM Beirut time
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Political theater
File - President Michel Sleiman speaks during a press conference in Baabda, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)
File - President Michel Sleiman speaks during a press conference in Baabda, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)
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For some politicians in Lebanon, the presidential election of May 2014 is in full swing. Unfortunately, this means that it’s time to engage in the traditional game of discussing the names of possible “candidates” behind closed doors and then leaking them to the media.

Naturally, there is a small market for this kind of news, and anyone looking in from the outside might see the phenomenon as a signal of vitality and pluralism in Lebanon’s political system, where the head of state isn’t limited to a single clique or family.

But for the overwhelming majority of consumers of political intrigue and many people who have simply lost interest in what politicians say, the attempts to generate public interest in the presidential election campaign couldn’t mean less.

Most are fully aware that the maneuvering which takes place nearly six months before the presidential election will have very little impact on what actually happens in May of next year.

They know that these politicians have little to no influence on the factors that will lead to the election of a president, which has to do more with the situation outside Lebanon than the situation inside the country. Some members of the public would like to see presidential candidates stand up openly and declare their platforms, even though MPs in Parliament will do the actual voting. Unfortunately, the current mindset among most politicians is that anyone who openly announces a run themselvesfor the country’s top job is actually destroying any chance of success, so the public is left with the secretive leaking of names to the media.

Instead of wasting time on this circus, politicians could busy themselves with generating solutions for the many problems faced by ordinary people. Instead of devoting their time and effort to entertaining a small segment of the public, these politicians should figure out what can be done to help Lebanon weather the many storms that threaten it. Security conditions, crime, electricity and water, traffic, education and health are some of the many troubled areas that need immediate, feasible solutions.

No one expects a magic answer to what the overarching foreign policy should be or other struggles that have paralyzed the national political order, but there is no excuse to see another rainy season begin with no fix for the perennial problem of water supply deficits, massive levels of waste and polluted sources of water.

If these vital sectors and day-to-day issues were tackled, politicians and the public would have the time to engage in speculation about the identity of the next president. A proper election campaign only makes sense in a system that works in the first place, and any effort spent to inspire public interest in the spectacle of the presidential election is a dangerous diversion from the real-world issues that are reaching crisis levels.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 04, 2013, on page 7.
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