Friday, July 4, 2008

1960 Election law won't benefit Christians

What better day to talk about democracy than on the Fourth of July? And yes, let’s leave it as an exercise to the reader to decipher if this is meant ironic or not. In any case, the other day L’Orient-Le Jour’s columnist Emile Khoury provided a highly interesting analysis of the impact of the 1960 Election Law the opposition wants to be reinstated. Conclusion: While marginally better than the current one, it still would leave the Christian candidates at the mercy of the Muslim voters.

The reason for this is that most electoral districts under the 1960 law still would have a majority of Muslims in them and thus they would ultimately decide which Christian candidate they’d like the best. According to the stats quoted by Khoury, roughly 40 out of the 64 "Christian" districts are dominated by Muslims. In other words, only 24 out of 128 seats are directly decided by Christian voters whereas the Constitution grants Christians 64 seats.

So why is that a problem? Personally, I would favor the abolishment of the confessional voting system which in my view undermines democracy. In fact, it has been argued that Lebanon is not a democracy for this very reason. [Note to self: blog about this in the near future.] Still, if a country wants to have a confessional system, it better be a representative one.

All Lebanese would agree that the current law used during the last election was anything but a fair law. But the thing is, the new law won’t bring much improvement. Yet, especially Michel Aoun is lobbying feverishly in favor of the 1960 Election law, which in his mind would address the problems of the current law.

So what’s wrong with the current law? For starters, it didn’t get Aoun the expected victory, which according to his followers, is already a major indication something is fundamentally wrong. But seriously (which I already was, actually), the 1960 Law won’t change the fact that Christians will be overruled by Muslims…again.

The opposition must know that their fight for the 1960 Law is merely a fight for fight’s sake. Is Aoun used again by Amal and Hezbollah into fighting for something that won’t improve the situation of the Christians and perhaps would only benefit the Shiites? Now that we know the 1960 Law won’t bring much to the Christians, it would be interesting to see whether it would strengthen the position of the Shiites.

See also this blog for another analysis of Aoun’s position.


R said...

unless its a first past the post confessional system where christian districts are assigned christian MPs and muslim districts assigned muslim MPs, representation will be decided by demographics. Look, in my opinion the current system as bad as it is (and it is extremely bad) is still better than one where 2/3 of the population gets to elect 1/2 of the representatives and 1/3 gets to elect a 1/2. Clearly, tho, even as it stands, the representation situation is untenable and the 1960's law will do nothing more than deepen the sectarian trenches... The solution tho is not more representatives elected by less people. Secularism anyone ?

Anonymous said...

Obviously, the entire political and electoral system in Lebanon needs an overhaul from the ground up. But your analysis forgets that Christians aren't the majority anymore in Lebanon. If they make up 35% of the population (I'm not saying this number is accurate, just using it to give an example), there is no way that you can split up the electoral districts and have them be a majority in every electoral governorate.

As for Hezbollah and Amal, they won every single seat they ran for the in last elections. This new electoral law gives Saad Hariri a Shia seat in Beirut 3, where Sunnis are the overwhelming majority. So trying to pin the electoral law on the Shias as having imposed it on Aoun frankly doesn't make much sense. Hezbollah has said all along that they prefer to make all of Lebanon one electoral circle under a proporational electoral law. This way, the amount of overall votes each party collects divided by the overall number of votes is the % of parliment seats gained by that party. That way atleast, whoever gets elected to Parliment is representative of the people in their own political capacity.

It was March 14 who shot down this proposal at Doha, strongly rejecting it. Hmm, perhaps they have something to fear from elections that are actually fair and representative...

Riemer Brouwer said...

@r and Anonymous
Yup, I agree. Hence my surprise as to why March 8 wants the 1960 Law so badly. It wouldn't improve much, if anything.

Secularism is the way to go. We all know it, we all want it, but it's never gonna happen...sigh

Anonymous said...

I am really sick and tired of people talking about Muslims electing Christians. So what? As a Lebanese, I should be able to vote as my fellow Christian citizen. My vote is not better than his and vica versa. I do not accept a country that weighs my fellow citizen vote different than mine. Time to remove this sectarian system that have prevented the development of a real Lebanese polity. I am Lebanese - period!