Electoral farce

Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri heads a Parliament session in Beirut, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

The debate over forging a new election law for this year’s polls continues to grind on, signaling that the scenario of no elections is becoming likelier day after day.

By this point, the average person in the street – if he or she is bothering to follow the various meetings and the flood of commentary – has probably reached the conclusion that all of the sides are talking out of the sides of their mouths.

In a steady dose of constructive confusion, the politicians are debating the merits of their proposals, while giving off the distinct impression that they would rather see no elections take place when June rolls around.

The election proposals that are being duly submitted and discussed do have a common denominator, namely that they seem doomed to fail. Officials will, at this point, be able to step in and declare that it is too late to hold the polls as envisioned, and some legal-sounding terminology will be found to endorse the matter officially.

MPs who met Monday in Parliament did things such as agree to increase the number of seats from 128 to 134, in the latest diversion from the Taif Accord, which everyone pledges to uphold.

Taif, after all, laid out the districting system: reconsider the country’s administrative divisions, and then use the governorate as the constituency. But in 2013, everything but the governorate is being discussed as an option.

All of these proposals are based on each party’s narrow interests and calculations of what will give it a majority, and not “luxuries” such as deciding the best type of system and instituting much-needed reform.

Speaker Nabih Berri has warned MPs that they must get through their committee’s electoral work, but he must now deal with discussions of truly divisive points. Berri has already committed to opposing any legislation that lacks the support of a major sect in the country.

Any election legislation requires the approval of the Joint Committees, followed by Berri, and then President Michel Sleiman, and no compromise is in sight. The political class appears to be waiting for the resolution of events in Damascus before they do anything meaningful in Nijmeh Square, while the international community would probably prefer to see stability in Lebanon, rather than a destabilizing election round. Until then, expect to hear MPs talk up the good points of their proposals, which are destined for failure.

Worst of all throughout this charade, many officials and politicians treat the Lebanese as if this fact is hidden from them, when in fact the average person has tuned out of the electoral debate because it appears to be so pointless.

All of the massive effort and time spent on this could have been spent instead on solving real-world problems, such as electricity, infrastructure and security, and ensuring that the country survives the tumultuous regional situation with as few losses as possible.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 19, 2013, on page 7.




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