Farcical democracy

File - Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri speaks during a Parliament session in Beirut, Thursday, March 20, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

Downtown Beirut Wednesday witnessed the latest weekly installment of the Lebanese soap opera “Electing a President,” as MPs from the March 8 camp once again stayed away in order to prevent a quorum.

The title of the show obviously requires a slight modification: substituting “electing” for the “appointment” or “selection” of a president, or perhaps “an agreement” on a president. This is because the concept of a democratic election continues to elude the country’s politicians, some of whom repeatedly insist that they want a president who is “made in Lebanon.”

The March 8-led boycott of presidential election sessions is raising more and more eyebrows among foreign diplomats based in the country who have been hearing so much about the need to respect the Constitution and the supposed desire for a head of state who is chosen by Lebanese and not foreigners. But MPs see no problem with blocking the election process as they wait for deals and agreements to be concluded outside the country, which will ultimately allow them to gather solemnly at Parliament to provide rubber stamp endorsement for the decision.

In the end, the Lebanese have only themselves to blame for this state of affairs, because Parliament is functioning with no clear oversight when it comes to such matters. In theory, judicial bodies are tasked with interpreting the Constitution and handing down decisions on controversies such as the one raging over the quorum required for presidential election sessions. But these bodies enjoy no immunity from the influence of politicians, meaning that there is no accountability for MPs when they exploit the Constitution to block the political process, instead of allowing institutions to rule.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 08, 2014, on page 7.




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