Wednesday’s second round of voting in Parliament looks set to fail to elect a new president and will likely constitute little more than further evidence, if it were needed, that the concept of “democracy” in Lebanon is but a sham.
Last week, no candidate secured two-thirds of the vote, with Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea winning 48 votes to 52 blank ballots. It seems unlikely a quorum will even be reached Wednesday, with parties in the March 8 bloc looking to scupper the vote to pressure March 14 groups to compromise.
But despite the insistence that this will be a homemade election, it is clear that external factors are still as influential as ever. Various groups are awaiting approval or support from their allies outside of the country, whether that’s Tehran, Riyadh, Paris or Washington.
The entire system of electing a new president is itself flawed, with candidates not even having to formally announce that they are standing. It’s a strange and haphazard affair, somewhat resembling a large-scale poker game. Different players wait in the shadows, watching their opponents carefully, to see what next move they will play and what cards they have in their hand.
Indeed, Michel Aoun, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, has basically indicated that he will not stand unless guaranteed to win. Is this the election of a president or a schoolyard game, where the rules are “it’s me or no elections?” Also, a flurry of recent protests and strikes, while inspired by a deserving cause, are being used by the March 8 bloc as a political tool.
The Lebanese deserve a sovereign and independent president, one willing and able to bring this country back to what it once was. It’s not clear that person yet exists.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 30, 2014, on page 7.