The election of a president in Lebanon does not require a formal nomination process. It doesn’t require the declaration of a campaign platform, either. Both are luxuries, because neither law nor custom requires them.
A person has every right to make open declarations of candidacy and policies, but the simple fact is that the head of state requires a cooperative Cabinet to turn the various suggestions into reality. Meanwhile, there is little need for a public relations effort to introduce candidates to the public. Lebanon is a small country and most people not only know all the relevant players, but also their secrets.
On the other side of the coin, there are nearly a dozen “candidates” who remain coy about their intentions and aspirations. However, they remain silent and hope that the prevailing political winds – not at home, but in the region and elsewhere – will usher them into Baabda Palace.
In fact, the deliberate ambiguity surrounding this type of prospective candidate is an insult to the nation’s highest post, and Lebanese politicians should set aside their shyness when it comes to presidential aspirations.
If a candidate truly aspires to being “made in Lebanon,” that person should say this loudly and proudly, instead of maintaining the facade that he is not in the running. Remaining silent is as demeaning as the complicated behind-the-scenes negotiations when they are dominated by non-Lebanese players.
In the end, the public doesn’t have a vote because MPs do the electing. But by remaining in the shadows, candidates only reinforce the mentality of “insiders only are welcome,” meaning that the public becomes more and more alienated from the process and from their own political leaders.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 18, 2014, on page 7.