True test of credibility

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, right, receives MP Strida Geagea in Beirut, Tuesday, April 22, 2014. (The Daily Star/Lebanese Parliament Website, HO)

Lebanon’s MPs will gather Wednesday in Downtown Beirut for the first attempt to elect a new president, although no one expects the session to produce a winning candidate supported by a two-thirds majority.

Some of the leading players have already announced what they intend to do and who they will vote for, while others have declared they will cast a blank ballot and wait for the next session to be convened.

The MPs have approximately one month to finalize the process and perhaps convince the public that the next president will actually be “made in Lebanon,” as Speaker Nabih Berri has trumpeted.

If the MPs show up and achieve a quorum, even if their vote doesn’t produce a winner, this is a good sign, as they at least assign some level of importance to the democratic process. If they engage in lobbying and horse-trading with the aim of eventually producing a winning candidate, they will be at least working to offset the notion that Lebanon’s president is chosen by non-Lebanese players.

But a series of delays and postponements designed merely to give them more time to gauge the situation in Syria or the progress in relations between the United States and Iran, for example, will only deepen public frustration with the entire election process.

Some politicians are fond of shrouding their “top-secret” decision-making in mystery, and this is their right. But the true test comes in convincing the public this year’s election is actually a local one.

In the end, if politicians adhere to the constitutional deadlines and engage in a national presidential election process, they will restore some long-needed seriousness and credibility to political life.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 23, 2014, on page 7.




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