Unfit for democracy

Lawmakers attend a Parliament session to discuss public sector wage hike bill on Wednesday, May 14, 2014. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

Once again, Lebanon’s Parliament will open its doors for a session dedicated to electing a president, while MPs from the March 8 camp will stay away, to block a quorum and the casting of any ballots.

Thursday’s “session” will witness the same theatrics, the same solemn statements about the need for consensus, and the same would-be candidates testing the waters, but without the courage to speak openly about their ambitions.

A flurry of behind-the-scenes contacts will continue, while practically none of the candidates, or their supporters, discusses the concrete policies that each stands for.

This year’s presidential election has proven without a shadow of doubt that Lebanon isn’t fit for the democracy that its politicians talk about so much. Politicians have failed the electorate and ignored the concept of national interest – the only interests that count are personal ones, or ones based on sectarian considerations, or ones tied to the agendas of foreign countries.

Admittedly, there are certainly times when consensus and national unity are valuable, such as in facing a foreign threat or some type of massive crisis.

But to demand “consensus” on a regular basis, supposedly to avoid the danger posed by a free, democratic and competitive election, is merely a sign of dysfunction.

Some politicians are fond of insisting that “the Lebanese must agree” in order to see their country move forward. But when it comes to the functioning of a sound democracy, it’s just as important – if not more so – to be able to disagree on a regular basis, without the entire system crashing to the ground. There are times when trying to keep everyone happy just means that no one is truly happy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 15, 2014, on page 7.




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