Monday, February 26, 2007

Lahoud might stay

What is it with Lebanese politics that either makes you want to laugh or cry; and most of the times leaves you somewhere in between, unsure what to think of it? Take the headline today on Naharnet: Lahoud warns that he might not leave. Already the use of the word ‘warns’ makes me crack up. Are we really to believe Lahoud said this? Of course not, but journalists in Lebanon are more biased then ever, so anything goes.

The story continues with Lahoud stating that he cannot hand in the country to a non-existing government. The establishment of a unity government is the only way for him to give up his post once his extended mandate expires, as he does not want to repeat the experience back in 1988 when Lebanon witnessed two governments. I doubt that Michel Aoun would mind it much, but that’s a different story.

It’s interesting to see how Lahoud is adopting the same conditions of the government, but with a twist: the government states that the removal of Lahoud is a condition for a unity government, while Lahoud expressed that a unity government is the condition for him to step down. Quite a nice Catch-22 he’s trying to establish here.

Will it work? Well, you never know. Normalcy has long ceased to exist in the Lebanese political arena. What’s even more is the lack of legal agreement on basics such as the interpretation of the constitution. Simple questions such as “Can Lahoud stay on if there is no government?” or “Is the current government indeed unconstitutional?” are seemingly unanswerable and would depend on political affiliation. That’s worrisome because it means the rule of law becomes obsolete in favor of the rule of thugs, be it camouflaged as politicians or not.

Why is it, a friend of mine asked the other day, that the Lebanese cannot be a bit more like the western world, where you have, say, Al Gore who lost the presidential elections by a clearly politically divided Supreme Court, and did so with a smile? Perhaps it’s because democracy is all Americans have and that makes it precious for them. Unfortunately, the Lebanese are spoilt with more options: who needs democracy when you can rely on wasta and connections?