Thursday, September 27, 2007

Towards consensus: vote on your enemy!

As mentioned in my previous post, the best illustration to see a complete breakdown of communication is the simple question: how many times did you have an open political conversation with someone belonging to the other camp during the last year?

For many Lebanese the answer will be hovering around zero. Instead of talking with the other, they prefer the comfort of hearing their friends fully agreeing with them.

Without dialog, people tend to drift away from each other and this is exactly what's happening in Lebanon. Also, the fact that most people simply vote for their zaim (a local political leader) doesn't really help in making a conscious decision. To make matters worse, the sectarian character of Lebanon contributes significantly towards this.

So how about a radical proposal:

During the next election, you cannot vote on candidates having the same religion as you.

This will remove the automatism of voting for one of your own, which is not really that interesting anyway: we all know who our friends are. Instead, my* proposal will force people to think who they want as their opponents. This will require opponents who, despite their different views, appeal to their voters. Hopefully, this will lead to moderation and thus to more consensus.

"Why use religion as a criterion?", you might ask. Simple: most Lebanese are affiliated by one of the religious groups in Lebanon and politics are usually divided exactly across those lines. Not being able to vote on candidates having the same religion as you, will effectively assure you have to vote on your enemy. So pick your favorite one!

My estimate would be that this approach could severely reduce the unnecessary tension in Lebanon and would prod people to start communicating once again.

Sure, there are details to work out such as ensuring balanced representation, people not belonging to any religion and all that, but let's focus on the big picture for now. Would this work?

*: Disclaimer: This proposal might already have been suggested by others. Great men think alike. Or: simple minds seldom pick:-)


Peter said...

I like your idea, but to answer your question: of course it won't work. No way the politicians in this country are going to change anything that might hurt them!!

Still, your suggestion is a good one and you are absolutely right that the Lebanese don't talk to each other anymore. If 'voting for your enemy' would change that, then yes, I like the idea.