Michel Aoun’s presidential election campaign continues unabated, while Lebanon’s executive and legislative branches of government continue to pay the price.
Aoun might be fully entitled to reject the latest proposal by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri on how to end the country’s crippling political paralysis, but his counter-offer is something out of the realm of science fiction. Instead of trying to reach an acceptable compromise by heading toward middle ground, Aoun is insisting on heading in the direction of the extreme.
Lebanon is experiencing a prolonged period of domestic political turbulence, while violence in the region threatens its delicate social fabric. Aoun has used such a period to put forward the idea of radically amending the Taif Accord by introducing the direct, sectarian election of the president – first by Christians and second by the Lebanese people.
His other proposal, to give priority to parliamentary elections, is just as divorced from reality, since politicians are no closer to agreeing on an election law than in past years. Not even Aoun’s allies support his stances, which only work to paralyze the presidency, the government and the legislature at a time when the country can least afford it.
In short, Hariri has asked for a series of steps to be taken – electing a president, forming a government, holding parliamentary elections, resolving Hezbollah’s dangerous involvement in the Syrian war and confronting the phenomenon of terror in Lebanon. All of these can be achieved under the umbrella of Taif, while Aoun is demanding the impossible – proposing sweeping changes to the Taif Constitution that require broad, if not total, consensus, while perfecting the art of anti-consensus, pure and simple.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 24, 2014, on page 7.