I know I promised I wouldn’t post about political bantering, but this goes beyond politics. This affects the very core of what democracy means: people choosing in a peaceful manner, far from unfair influences and based on platforms and critical thinking. Of course, in Lebanon, these things rarely exist (critical thinking and political platforms).
In the past few weeks, the struggle to find a means to ratify a new electoral laws have everyone skeptical about the adequacy of a law this pathetic parliament would pass, and if elections would in fact ever take place in the uncertain time when each political camp is waiting to see how the Syrian crisis unfolds so they can either cash-in on victory (March 14), or count their losses and somehow restart their political agendas independent of an Assad regime (March 8).
The “Orthodox” Law and Why It Sorta Makes Sense
The law hasn’t really been worked out fully yet, so the details are still unclear. The main point of it though is that each sect will elect its own officials. What is meant by that is still unsure (whether sects broadly, as in Muslim-Christian, or more specific sects), but I believe the one Christian leaders are going for is the one where all Maronite voters will vote for the Maronite MPs, all Greek Orthodox voters will vote for Greek Orthodox MPs, all Shiite voters will vote for Shiite MPs, etc.
Of course, in any democracy, this law would be appalling and even laughable. However, in Lebanon, seats in parliament, cabinet and most other governmental elected and appointed spots, are split evenly between Christians and Muslims, and divided further between each of the two’s many sects.
Of course, with the dwindling number of Christians in Lebanon and their relative disunity compared to the largely en-bloc Shiites and Sunnis, makes this division a ceremonial one. Instead, loyalists to mainly Muslim political parties get elected and take up the lion’s share of the 64 Christian MPs, with Christian votes electing a mere two dozen of those seats, largely in Aoun’s Reform and Change Bloc.
So, the real problem is the division of power in Lebanon based on sects. But, what makes it even worse, is that even though it was put in place to make every one of the 18 sects feel secure, it only does that superficially, while in reality, the voters and votes do not reflect that at all (seeing how Christians are more spread out across Lebanese territories and their votes often get drowned with a largely unified majority from a different sect versus the practically split-in-half Christians).
So, pragmatically, this is the “best” law to guarantee the “effective” implementation of our constitution. But, the truth is, it sucks, big time,
Why It Doesn’t Make Sense
We are a country of liars, or at least most of us are. We boast and sing to the glory of being unified, when we really aren’t. Come election time, the main platform of change is scaremongering based on religion. Christians are threatened by their leaders that “if the other side wins, your women will wear the chador (head veil)”. On the other, extremist clerics call it a necessary jihad to vote against the Christian extremists.
We are on edge 24/7, fearing a Sunni-Shiite war will erupt any second with Christians caught in the middle or split between the other two major sects. If two men fight at a strip club, and they happen to be from different sects, it often escalates to an inter-sect strife that involves lots of guns and tires blazing.
This law would practically nail the last nail in secularism’s, or rather prospective-secularism’s coffin in Lebanon. It would solidify the already major divides on sectarian fault lines. All that would remain is setting up new borders and autonomous governments for each sect (which is a geographical impossibility, due to many towns being in regions where the majority is from a different sect).
Why It Probably Won’t Pass
As we said, Christian representation is practically ceremonial in parliament. So, despite the fact the 4 major Christian (Maronite) leaders did agree on the law proposed by the Orthodox Gathering, their combined votes are nowhere near enough to pass such a law. For it to pass, two other blocks with substantial Christian seats need to hop on board: The Future Movement and Walid Junblat’s block.
This of course, is extremely unlikely. Junblat currently holds seats which are well above the amount he should have with his mostly Druze supporters. The Druze number very few compared to other sects, yet Junblat has benefited greatly from the current electoral law’s loopholes that has given him far greater representation, and basically, made him Lebanon’s kingmaker, with his block’s alignment determining who was the majority between 14M and 8M.
Hariri would not be happy accepting this law, because that means his share of the Christian MPs (which is the highest among all other blocks btw) would be eaten away by Christian parties, especially his allies the Lebanese Forces and Kataeb. Now, of course, they are all in a coalition, but who would give up half their parliamentary seats to an ally in the most fickle of industries: Lebanese politics.
There is the possibility that Amal and Hezbollah will get on board, but even if they do, Junblat’s support is still very much needed and if Hariri is completely not ok with this law, it will make going forward much harder for the LF and Kataeb…
So, I sincerely doubt it’ll pass.
Even though this law will probably not pass, it does send a resounding message from Christian leaders to Muslim ones. It shows that the usually mortal enemies, can agree when they need to about “preserving” their sects’ “rights”. Of course, this is probably nothing more than political maneuvering by the Christian parties. Why? Because many Christians will naively feel “wow, these guys really are looking out for me” and when it eventually fails, and each side blames the other for the law’s failure, the camp that convinces people that it wasn’t their fault will probably get one hell of a boost in the ballot boxes for being the “true guardians of Christians.”
Proportionality, Proportionality, Proportionality
Small electoral districts, proportionality-based elections (versus the winner-takes-all current model) is the way to go. Of course, ideally, we’ll remove religion from law and politics completely. But, let us not get too optimistic when it comes to a people that can’t even pass a law to protect women because their Sheikhs wouldn’t allow it.
It truly is like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. The current political system is broken, and this law is the only way it can work as originally designed. Of course, if that very system does work, it will basically enshrine the divisions amongst Lebanon’s way-too-many sects. Also, what the flying fuck?! If I like a particular candidate who’s a sunni let’s say, I can’t vote for him or her because I’m Maronite on paper?!