Politicians in Lebanon have been hard at work in recent weeks on the country’s parliamentary election law, with the following to show for it: They have taken people from one depressing deadlock to another.
Few people who follow the issue believe that they were serious about things in the first place. The various factions put forward one election draft after another in an all-out competition to gain time, as they also sought to convince the public that they were serious about the matter.
Throughout the election law saga, politicians were putting their own narrow interests ahead of those of the nation, and conveniently forgot the time element in all of this maneuvering. Changing the election law requires a constitutional amendment, which means a trip to the Constitutional Council, and the signature of the president if the legislation passes muster. Politicians are now talking about the search for “consensus” in order to enact a new election law, which is a stark reminded that the Orthodox Gathering proposal, approved by Parliament’s Joint Committees, is dead in the water.
In short, many politicians and officials are outbidding each other in their attempt to stress the need to see the elections held on time, which is a clear indication that there is little chance of this happening.
It has now become clear that no law stands a chance of passing. The country now squarely confronts the possibility of one of two very unpalatable options. One is that the so-called 1960 law that is already in place will govern the polls, after nearly all politically factions emphatically rejected this scenario. The second is that an extension of the term of Parliament is coming.
But if politicians believe that they have moved into the realm of extension with no costs, they must think again. As the Maronite patriarch noted Friday, Lebanon now faces the prospect of seeing the term of Parliament extended, along with that of President Michel Sleiman. The extension dominoes game will see one post after another renewed, because the political system is dysfunctional.
The talk has now shifted from what kind of election law Lebanon deserves, to one of what kind of extension process is likely to result. A “technical,” two-month period, or a two-year arrangement, to give politicians more time to wait out events in Syria before committing themselves to anything specific.
If Lebanon heads into its summer tourist season in a state of legal limbo, political deadlock and security instability, one can only imagine the results. Officials have their work cut out for them as they search for a miracle solution to this tragi-comedy of errors.