Lebanon’s parliamentary elections of 2018.

Lebanese people have not participated in this “democratic exercise” since 2009, because of the violation and abuse of power and the occupation of the parliament with 3 illegitimate extensions. (Lebanese were supposed to vote in 2013)

Needless to say, quite lot has happened since 2009 in Lebanon and the region: the Arab Spring, the uprisings and revolutions being the most significant.

Parties holding power in Lebanon broke their alliances formed in 2005 (8 March, 14 March) and now have somehow created links between all of them through coalitions and partnerships. The most significant breaking up of this polarity happened with the elections of Aoun in October 2016.

It is sadly not the goal of this article to write about this saga. The website Moulahazat goes into much details.

Before the “election” of Aoun, Lebanese people voted for their municipalities in May 2016, and the Beirut municipality battle showcased that parties will gather and ally in order to face new forces. All parties but Hezbollah (who had no big interest in a seat in the Beirut municipality) joined arms together and still barely won against Beirut Madinati list, an independent list.

The many combinations to first beat down a new possible force in Beirut and then to end the presidential crisis created somehow a new political reality, or just revealed what is the real nature of all powerful parties in Lebanon.

And thus, unsurprisingly, when the parliamentary elections got closer and it was time to form lists, a lot of alliances from the parties in power were formed. Alliances were formed on the basis of getting the highest votes and ensure seats in parliament, and was not based on the basis of any political identity or program. (Besides holding power as much as they can and as long as they can).

The Free Patriotic Movement, led by Gebran Bassil, is the best example for such alliances formed. Very often, it has allied with a group in X district, only to be against the same group in Y district. Once again suggesting that political opinions don’t really matter, only seats.

FPM

 

But is there a chance for change? And what is change?
The answer is no, there is no possibility for significant change.

Firstly, to speak about a “chance for change”, we assume that the two following conditions will be fulfilled:

1) A significant parliamentary seat change is possible and this change will benefit the new comers and their supporters.

2) We assume that this re-allocation of seats could lead to a form of a positive radical change.

Condition 1): A study published show that only 38 seats will be truly subject to change, while the wide majority of seats will simply get back to their old seat holders. Some new lists and coalitions have a small change of getting new seats.  A “chance for radical change” is not realistically possible in the parliament and the country.

2) Some candidates from the new comers lists, especially on the wide lists of Kulluna Watani or other seats like Madaniye in the Chouf are presenting a strong agenda and some strong progressive positions for Lebanon. Some candidates from Kulluna Watani and other independent are not only on point with human rights values, but with the economy itself. (The two can’t be separated).

The ruling parties won’t prepare their own poison.

The electoral law makers (MP’s and the power holders in this country) didn’t cook the electoral law dish in order to poison themselves. They know that this law, despite a few new entries here and there, will work to their benefits. Of course, only time will tell what the size of their losses will be, but the few seats won’t be enough to radically change the country. (neither will any elections).

It is a complex law, to say the least, but it is also a law that could allow “breaches”, Megaphone, a channel on Facebook and other social media platforms, explain it pretty well.

كيفية فرز الأصوات بقانون الإنتخابات الجديد

كيف بتم فرز الأصوات حسب القانون الجديد؟

Publiée par ‎Megaphone – ميغافون‎ sur Mercredi 21 mars 2018

Still, vote.

Voting is important because it could reveal first an approximation of the support new comers lists are receiving. Voters can be eventually new members of the groups that are trying to change things for the better in this country. Voters for the alternative, independent and progressive groups could be the base support for the groups to further grow.

The vote will be a first step to eventually grow and re-organize political groups and ideologies. If the parliament doesn’t self extend, we might witness a new stronger political coalition in 2022.

Hundreds of thousands of people who never voted could vote now, (the people from 20 to 29 years old), and they might push a new force within the parliament.

Choose rightly.

Today the voting law gives us finally the right to choose a candidate within a list. So we voters have the chance to choose a list not only according to its ideology on paper, but also specifically to each one’s history and positions.

A “preferential” vote supposedly mean that better candidates could get a seat (but not necessarily due to the complex electoral law).

A vote should be given to someone with a full and progressive program. And to a group that work with full transparency regarding their funding. Here are some points that should be fulfilled in my point of view.

  • Ensuring full rights and liberties for everyone in the country, and working with the oppressed minorities so that they can have full self-determination, rights, and freedoms, (and not co-opt their struggle).
  • Disapprove and reject neoliberal policies for the country. (Full liberalization, focus on finances, PPP’s etc, amass public debt,)
  • Ensuring universal rights: water access, electricity access, free education, free universal healthcare, free public spaces, affordable and accessible housing.
  • Ensuring transparency during their work in the parliament and full access to information to everyone.
  • Ensuring the country is not a political chessboard of foreign nations in the region and beyond.

Tools to help us choose:

Needless to say, do not vote for the parties in the current government, do not vote for parties with blood on their hands, (from the times of the civil war or other times), do not vote for parties that receive their funding from outside countries, do not vote for parties who self-extended their MP’s 3 times, do not vote for anyone that allied with the current power holders.

In order to help us better choose, we might take a look at Mist3ideen. Mist3ideen is a group of activists who try to look at who might the better candidate (especially from the new comers) by their standard, their list is helpful and detailed.

Human Rights Watch also published a list of candidates or parties that respect their 10 human rights points:

201803mena_lebanon_elections

 Why is this election somehow important?

If the results are favorable to the diverse candidates from civil society, this is will be a test for them. New MP’s might not bring radical change, some might even serve the ruling class consciously or unconsciously, but some others might bring a new image to the Lebanese MP.

One that communicates with people, one that is accessible, one that asks the government pertinent questions, one that serves the interests of the many, not the few.

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond the end of sectarianism, and beyond civil law.

The Lebanese parliamentary elections are approaching quickly and a wide array of new groups aim to challenge the traditional power holders of this country, (the ones in parliament, the government and beyond).

Some of of them, such as LiBaladi, Haqqi, hold progressive and liberal point of views.

Participating in a sectarian, proportional, and complicated elections, many new groups believe in a civil state, basically, justice, law and state have to be separated from religious authorities.

Sectarianism is an obvious ill in Lebanon, but it is often a layer (or a curtain) to the ills behind it.

I personally feel that a lot of people and groups often believe that if sectarianism comes to an end in Lebanon, if political parties don’t rely themselves anymore on sectarian manipulation and quotas, if law is separated from religion, then Lebanon would be a functioning nation, with fair services and laws to citizens, and a fair justice system.

It is obvious that it is not the case, all we have to do is to look at other secular, civil nations. Inequality and corruption are also present there, and there is one common layer to all current societies, and it is a harsh, neo-liberal form of capitalism.

Current groups and people fighting for seats in the parliament (or change) have to see this.

Sectarianism isn’t the greatest ill of this country.

To end the current post, I’ll cite the late thinker Bassem Chit:

The reason why many consider sectarianism as a “counter-nationalist” and a “pre-modern expression” is due to the fact that most dominant interpretations of the historical developments of modern Arab and Middle Eastern societies are crude and Eurocentric – in which the development of capitalism (and thus modernity) is understood to follow the European model. In this case the understanding of modernity is that of an ideological break with religious establishments and ideas.

Actor Chuck Norris serves as Netanyahu propaganda.

Chuck Norris, the very well known American actor and martial artist, has been pushing Israelis to vote for Netanyahu.

The Internet meme hero has posted videos, urging Israelis to not be fooled by Netanyahu adversaries propaganda..ironically.

The Israelis are today electing a new parliament and it’s uncertain whether Netanyahu and his coalition will win.

Hard Luck Chuck Norris, it seems that your hero, the man with the blood of hundreds of innocent children killed during the Gaza wars (or massacres) on its hands, won’t win.
Next time you watch a film with Norris, keep in mind that he’s supporting a killer.

Yesterday, Netanyahu stated that if he were again the Prime Minister, there won’t be a Palestinian state, undermining the already inexistant peace process and the so-called two state solution.

How I, Lebanese citizen, imagine the Lebanese president.

I’ve heard numerous times that the Lebanese presidential vacancy is very dangerous to the country and to the whole Levant Region. Yes, the Lebanese president is the only leader Christian of the Middle East and symbolically, he represents much more that the power granted to him by the constitution ; constitutionally, the president is a weak voice within the Political scene. Here’s how Jean Aziz put it on Al Monitor.

The Lebanese Constitution stipulates that if the presidency becomes vacant, the powers of the president are conveyed to the council of ministers. Note that the presidential powers themselves are not decisive and cannot stop the work of the system. The president can attend meetings of and preside over the council of ministers, but he doesn’t decide its agenda nor vote on its decisions. If he opposes a cabinet decision, he may only request that it be reviewed. If the council of ministers insists on that decision, it will go into effect two weeks after it was approved, whether or not the president agrees.

The same applies to parliament. The constitution gave the president the power to only publish the laws passed by parliament, and if he opposes a law, he may also return it to parliament for reconsideration. Yet, if a parliamentary majority insists on the law, it takes effect in one month at the most, whether or not the president agrees.

Thus, according to the constitution, the Lebanese system can, to a great extent, operate normally without a president.

Let us admit the fact that not having a president right now isn’t the end of the world. And this vacancy won’t attract more terrorists into the country to fill up this chair. IS and the like will attack Lebanon, president or not.

Do we need a president ?

Our sectarian system (the National pact) gives Sunni, Shiites and Christians roles. The PM must be a Sunni, the president of the Parliament a Shiite and the President a Christian. If we want to talk “Sectarian” (which I hate) yes, we do need a Christian voice within the leadership. And if this nonsense national pact shall continue, I believe the president role must be stronger to “compete” with Sunni and Shiite voices.

In a better world, the leaders would be chosen without looking at their Sects.

In a less better world, still sectarian, I believe that those positions must be rotatory and the  President must be elected by Universal suffrage. Let us have faith in ourselves and our ability to choose a president by only ourselves.
The president would have programs and ambitions for all the regions, not his hometown nor the towns and provinces of his sect. He shall have a campaign free of corruption and a program that aims to bring equality and justice for all.
If we believe that the votes will be bought to represent another sect, exemple : A Christian President that is “the favorite of Shiites”, then we are truly lost. We have to believe in ourselves and our ability for real change.

Perhaps if we are obliged by the constitution to vote for a president that doesn’t have the same religion, we can be ready for a fully secular government, parliament, and presidency.

Enough with the pre-arranged president that represents nothing.

How many of us really care about the presidential election ?

(Photo: Bilal Jawiche)

Did you wake up  and say : Today’s the Lebanese Presidential Election, I shall look forward to the candidates and see who will lead our country ?

How many of us really care about today’s election ? How many of us think that our president represent us ?

Personally, I never felt proud of our Lebanese president, I never identified to him. Lahoud and Sleiman are the only presidents that I am aware of, but I always felt that they were very distant, not close to us, the people.

I don’t care about Aoun and Geagea, I don’t want any actors of the civil war to play leaders, that’s not what we need. I want to vote for my president, and I want to vote for a president, regardless of his religion, because guess what, in my Lebanese Utopia, none of the candidates would declare their religions, just their plans to make a better country. Have I heard about programs from the candidates ? I sincerely can’t tell the difference between them, except their political affiliations. NO I don’t care about the elections.

I want to see new faces. I want to see new INDEPENDENT faces, ones that are not playing at war with others, ones that will take Lebanon further. I’ll be proud of that president.

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