Saturday, November 24, 2007

Hezbollah’s real objective?

According to Philippe Abi-Akl in L’Orient-Le Jour of today, Hezbollah’s (hidden) agenda for the presidential stalemate is to reopen the Taif accord in order to adjust the balance of Muslims and Christians from 50-50 to two-third versus one-third. This would better reflect demographic reality in Lebanon.

Muslims and especially the Shiites would be right to claim more influence under the current political system in Lebanon, since they are growing faster than Christians. In fact, it is difficult to explain why Christians should hold 50 percent of the Parliamentary seats while they are roughly 25 percent of the population. And that shows exactly the problem of this system: political influence based on religion is in fact influence based on simple demographics. By guaranteeing a fixed amount of seats per sect, it is no wonder people start demanding additional seats if their sect grows faster than others.

As such, the system is doomed, if only due to the fact that sects that are becoming smaller would be hard pressed to give up some of their seats, giving rise to conflicts. Still, as long as the system is based on demographics, this is the one threat that cannot avoid. If anything, the Christians would be smart to start thinking about a viable alternative because sooner or later, they will lose the race against demographic shifts in favor of Shiites and, to a lesser extent, Sunnis.

A first step should be to cut the umbilical cord between religion and politics in Lebanon. Why is it that voters only vote for politicians of the same faith? As argued before on this blog, there is nothing wrong with allowing religion in politics, in the sense that religion can inspire politicians on an individual basis. But politicians should not try to extent their influence over religious matters, nor should religious leaders try to extent their influence over politics.

Once voters realize that a politician of a different faith can equally well, or (shock!) even better, represent their interests, the next step would be to remove the fixed amount of seats per sect. This would force politicians to reach out to voters outside their religion. The fear of minorities, like the Christians, that they would be dominated by Muslims, could and should be countered by Christian politicians appealing to the Muslim voter. Similarly, a Muslim politician could attract Christian votes by offering a non-threatening program.

Parallel to these steps should be the implementation of truly anti-corruption measures to do away with the system of ‘wasta’ whereby positions and favors are extended to friends, often within the same religion. The moment politicians lose this tool to attract votes, would be the moment they would be forced to actually start running for office by means of solid programs voters could identify with regardless of religion.

Right now, this is wishful thinking for most Lebanese, especially the Christians. Yet, the logic of the demands to change the distribution of seats will only become stronger as time passes by. Christians still have a respectable amount of influence, if only by sheer number of Parliamentary seats. Therefore, if they want to avoid losing even more power by a possible adjustment of seats, they’d better act fast.


Mustapha said...

It seems particularly odd that Michel Aoun is allied with Hezbollah and using the pretext of Protecting the Christians don't you think? :)

On another note,

For some odd reason, I'm not being able to add your feed to my sidebar digest. I'm getting all sorts of error messages..

Would it be too difficult for you to set up a quick account and let me know your feed url?


Riemer Brouwer said...

True, quite odd, especially now that he calls himself the Patriarch of Politics, he seems to have given up on allying with Sfeir

Ah well, he has a good heart for us bloggers, alright: always something to write about:-)

Here is the Feedburner link: