Monday, October 8, 2007

Power to the People…not!

How difficult it is to abstain from irony in Lebanon! Look at the reactions to the speech of Hezbollah leader Nasrallah on the occasion of Jerusalem Day. He suggested during his speech that the people of Lebanon should elect a new president if the members of parliament fail to do so. Seems reasonable, right?

Actually, for once, the March 14 leaders agreed with him that this was the best solution. Saad Hariri went even so far as to say that he was all in favor of it and that he was sure March 14 would win such an election…but…and there’s always a ‘but’, he added with regret in his voice…we can’t simply change the Constitution every time we see fit. Who said that irony is dead?

Or rather, changing it for the benefit of one person’s presidential ambitions, namely army commander Michel Suleiman who cannot become president under the current Constitution, would not be a real problem. After all, that would only be a small change. But changing the Constitution to give the Lebanese more influence in who will run their country for the next six years is obviously way too much.

The arguments used against Nasrallah’s proposal are curious to say the least. On the one hand, March 14 is fully confident that they would win such a popular vote, yet on the other hand this proposal will only lead Lebanon into unknown territories. Huh? March 14 is sure they would win, but they are still afraid the outcome would lead Lebanon to uncertainty.

Looks like they’re not that sure after all. Perhaps they’re even a bit afraid of the people they represent. And they should be. Right now, they can push through their own candidate without risking much, except a new round of killing of MPs. However, going back to the public and asking the opinion of the Lebanese could result in an undesirable outcome, namely Michel Aoun as president.

Whatever you might think of Nasrallah, one thing is for sure: he is no dummy. In fact, his latest proposal made it painfully clear that March 14 no longer believes it enjoys the majority of popular support. This sheds new light on the presidential elections. Theoretically, the government should elect a president as the Constitution prescribes. Practically, however, things have changed and politicians claiming to represent the people should never be afraid of acknowledging such change.

Obviously, you can’t have elections every day, but with the upcoming choice for the new president, a natural moment presents itself to reevaluate the current situation. Hiding behind the Constitution is not very brave, especially when realizing that March 8 and March 14 combined, have the power to change the Constitution and can do so legally. March 14’s arguments against changing the Constitution therefore do not make sense, but I suppose that goes back to the irony in Lebanese politics.


Mustapha said...

perhaps you might find the comments and reactions to this old but similar post enlightening

Riemer Brouwer said...

Thanks for the link, it must have escaped me at the time. The arguments mentioned in the comments on your blog entry seem quite valid since they deal with early parliamentary elections. However, i was referring to presidential elections, which are in other countries decided by the people (e.g., USA).

Still, it's easy to see that such change will not happen overnight in Lebanon, nor should they happen like that.

Still, it's nice to dream sometimes of a country where people truly have power, where politicians are held accountable and where political discussion actually can take place.

JoseyWales said...


I don't like the current system.

However, things are more complicated than you suggest.

1)Time to change is not 10 days before an election.

2)The whole balance defined by Taef would change and would involve rewriting the whole constitution.

E.g. a popularly elected president would (rightly) start claiming more power than given under the current constitution. Sunnis and Shia may then object to shifts in power etc...

Taef sucks and needs to be radically changed or trashed IMO, but not under pressure/duress a few days before a major election.

Anonymous said...

talking about irony, take aoun for instants he talks about christian votes but knows the only way he can become president is by shite votes, (christian's split 50/50 and shites have more voting people and of course are brainwashed idiots) that's what I call irony not changing a constiution.