Thursday, August 27, 2015

Let’s do it, but let’s do it right

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In 2005, whether people took to the streets on March 8 or on March 14, they had one clear message each: “Thank you Syria” on March 8, “Syria out” on March 14. 

In 2015, the popular movement against corruption has many messages and even more demands, from regime collapse (isqat el nizam) to immediate government resignation and/or parliamentary elections.

Let’s look at the main messages/demands in details and see which one could truly bring the long awaited change most Lebanese crave and hope for.

Scenario 1: regime collapse (isqat el nizam)

A regime collapse means simultaneous resignation of government and parliament, and cancellation of the current Constitution.

Which means a total political void.

To fill that void, a new Constitution would need to be drawn.

In order to do so, political parties and representative from civil society would need to agree on a new power sharing formula. This would obviously take time.

During that time, to avoid chaos and civil war, the Lebanese army would be forced to seize power.

After that, even if the army would want to rapidly restore the democratic process, it wouldn’t be able to do it before a new Constitution is agreed upon, which could take months if not years.

So Lebanon would live under military rule for an undermined period of time.

Even if some people call for a military junta, the overwhelming majority, despite its absolute support to the Lebanese army, wants a civilian democratic process. Which rules out scenario 1 and takes us to scenario 2.

Scenario 2: immediate government resignation

According to the Constitution, the president appoints a Prime minister, who in turn forms a government.

So in the absence of a president, if the government resigns, there will be no possibility to appoint a new Prime minister, let alone form a new government.

The resigning government would only be dealing with current affairs until the parliament’s renewed mandate comes to term and new elections are held.

Which basically would only drag the status quo for almost two more years.

Which leads us to scenario 3.

Scenario 3: immediate parliamentary elections

Many consider the actual parliament illegal because it extended its own mandate and was not elected for a new term, as per the Constitution. Therefore it’s not fit to elect a new president.

If the parliament is illegal and is not fit to elect a new president, it can’t possibly vote for a new electoral law.

If immediate elections were held, they would have to happen under the current electoral law.

On the other hand, immediate elections will not give sufficient time for new political parties to be formed or new independent figures to run a proper electoral campaign.

Therefore the new parliament will be identical to the previous one, and it will, in all logic, act the same way.

As its first duty would be to elect a new president, the election outcome would be the same as if the current parliament elected the president.

So if regime collapse would lead to military rule, if government resignation would only drag on the status quo, if parliamentary elections will not change a thing, then what?

Then we need to consider a fourth scenario.

Scenario 4: immediate presidential elections

Parliament convenes immediately and elects a new president.

The latter would appoint a new Prime minister and a new government would be formed. 

This government would immediately call for new parliamentary elections under a new law voted by the current parliament.

One might argue that this would only serve the actual political establishment. 

But that’s not entirely true: the period needed to appoint a new Prime minister, form a government, agree then vote on a new electoral law, would give sufficient time for new political parties to be formed and new political figures to emerge, and of course run proper campaigns.

Then it would be in our hands to elect the right people, who, with our help and support, would bring the much-needed change.

It’s a slow process that requires hard work and determination. 

In a complex country like Lebanon, with such an intricate web of religious sects, political parties and institutionalized corruption, easy and fast solutions don’t exist.

If it’s important to say no to what is, it’s equally important, if not more, to prepare for what should be. 

And be certain that what we ask for would actually bring the change we want.

© Claude El Khal, 2015

Photo by Jad Ghorayeb


Anonymous said...

In scenario 4, would the current parliament ever agree to vote the new law which would push them out? Do u realistically see them do that? What am I missing here?

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't the current parliament simply create an electoral law that "fits its own size"? (Mfassal 3a 2yeso.) I can't see how the current parliament would pass a law that is modern and fair, thereby guaranteeing the shakeup of some quite rigid and powerful blocs in the legislature. Who would write up their own demise?

Roger Tannous said...

@Anonymous (both posts)

The current parliament will legitimize the new law because they hope they'll have part in the new parliament, and logically they'll have. We're not talking here about the same people, but about political parties which are also part of our society, same as too many people from different parties are supporting "Tol3it Rihetkoun" today.

Scenario 4 ends by a new government (Claude has omitted this because it's more than obvious).

The ideal case for scenario 4 (which I also strongly believe is the right "path") is for the new government (the last omitted step) to be formed by technocrats. This will, as much as possible, minimize the influence of political parties in the executive authority and ensure professionalism and integrity. Isn't it what we all want ?

The new parliament can also shorten the term of the President and elect a new one. This would solve the dilemma for having a President elected by an extended term parliament.

Now back to the most intriguing point and referring to Wednesday's episode of "Bi Mawdou3ieh", Mr Ahmad Hellani and Mr Wael Abdallah, as representatives of "Tol3it Rihetkoun", did not present any alternative to, or suggested steps after, the regime collapse. They even expected and invited supporters to come up with solutions. Well, this is not acceptable. When you lead such demonstrations and call for a regime collapse, you really have to lead, at least with some plausible ideas. The list was empty, while we expected some bright and constructive ideas (without breaking the Constitution).

Demonstrators not only called for immediate solutions for the waste issue, but also for regime collapse, while "leaders" of "Tol3it Rihetkoun" are short on alternatives!