Responsible rivals

According to the latest indications, the stalemate over the formation of a new government in Lebanon is finally eroding.

The major players have been put on notice that they simply must produce an agreement, after a high-level, one-two punch by Walid Jumblatt, openly, and Damascus, behind closed doors.

According to the latest indications, the impasse over the Interior Ministry is finally at an end, and although one can’t say that the “crisis is over,” until the decree is actually issued by Baabda Palace.

But, assuming that the government is now just a few days away, there is no use going back to the last 100-plus days, to start looking for scapegoats.

It is simply a time in which Lebanon needs to get down to business, and face the facts. There will be a government of “one [political] color,” irrespective of the different shades within the next Cabinet. In this new situation, the country’s new opposition, the March 14 coalition, will have an important role to play.

Since Taif, Lebanon has suffered from several types of political arrangements. Whether it was the infamous troika system, or the unstable periods of “national unity,” the same phenomenon resulted: Rival groups were present in the Cabinet, meaning a lack of cohesiveness and effectiveness.

Today, in sharp contrast, the country will see a more legitimate “game,” where the opposition is actually outside the Cabinet, playing its proper role of monitoring the executive branch and holding it accountable.

The new opposition must play this proper role by using legitimate tools: it can’t rely solely on rhetoric and polemic; it has the right to criticize, but it will also be expected to put forward its alternatives.

This political formula is a basic part of any respectable democracy.

The new government in turn, must address the people’s needs and secure their well-being. It would be fruitless to focus on the stalemate of the last 100 days, and determine who exactly has been responsible for the delay in forming a government, and hold people accountable for the damage they have done to the country. By the same token, it would be fruitless for the next government to take office with an attitude of trying to pursue a vendetta against its rivals.

The new government must simply look forward, and get on with the business of governing, or else it will have failed before the ink is even dry on the long-awaited decree. Perhaps Lebanon will be lucky enough to see a political system based, healthily, on a government, and an opposition.

The new government will have its hands full as it seeks to defuse the various tensions present in Lebanon’s streets, whatever the reason behind them. It is time to see two distinct groups – the government and the opposition – take responsibility for matters, and let the people decide who can do a better job.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 12, 2011, on page 7.




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