Lebanon at present is a failing republic.
Many factors have led to this state of disarray including:
The repeated denigration of the function of the state has greatly devalued the role of state institutions and has created an explosively dangerous situation for Lebanon, while in the midst of a regional cataclysm. For this reason, the matter of electing a President is of vital relevance in order to avoid a complete governmental free fall into temporary solutions that are anti-constitutional and perilous.
The nation is confronting crisis upon crisis, starting with the economy, where all pending investments in Lebanon have been stopped as a result of the dis-function of the Executive and Legislative Branches. There is also the unresolved matter of the burgeoning social disaster caused by the presence of the Syrian displaced, exceeding ¼ of the total population of the country, which cannot be handled effectively while the Executive Branch is paralyzed by partisan politics.
The present situation in Lebanon is in a coma and the only way to revive it is through the election of a President followed rapidly with the implementation of a progressive new electoral law and parliamentary elections, which would restore the basic democratic principles that uphold the nation.
Equally the immanent threat of the dissolution of the Government is also a function of the vacuum in the Presidency due to the fragmentation of the presidential powers into 24 heads. The election of a President removes this anomaly, as well as, the political leverage mechanism engendered, which is being exploited under the circumstances to further selective agendas.
All in all, the domino effect of the successive abuses of power, the tactical meddling of foreign states, the determination of the few to protect their personal interests at the expense of the greater good, have all led to the deadlock over the matter of the presidency.
But beyond that, the presidency cannot be limited to people or candidates who, because of their history, act as political ballast for one side’s favor.
A Lebanese president must unite the nation and not divide it further. The claim that a strong president is what is needed is in fact meaningless in a parliamentary democracy where it is more important to focus of building trust among stakeholders than reprsenting throngs of humans with no bearing on the outcome of a presidential election.
If we analyze the undercurrents of the present deadlock in the presidency, aside from the idiosyncrasies of certain individual characters who are protagonists to the seat, it becomes evident that there are some fundamental issues, which need to be addressed in this matter. Unfortunately this discussion is akin to the expression about “the elephant in the room” that everybody sees and nobody wants to talk about.
This particular elephant has been present for several years. It can be summarized in the following dilemma: The ineluctable mistrust that exists between the Lebanese Sunni and Shia communities.
In essence, the main problem for the Sunnis is Hezbollah’s capabilities and their weapons and the main problem for Hezbollah is the Sunni Takfirist threat and their constant clamoring for them to get rid of their weapons.
Added to this state of internal opposition, the escalation of extremism in the region due the Syrian civil war and the proxy involvement of both the Sunni and the Shia on opposite sides of that battle, has made it impossible for them to achieve any level of comfort with each other on the internal front.
It is blatant that Hezbollah will not withdraw its commitment to support the Syrian regime because their relationship to that regime is symbiotic and they feel bound by the same outcome that will befall that regime. They also consider that they are facing an existential threat, and the only way they can counter this threat is to hedge it off at the Lebanese border so that it does not overwhelm them and the territory. They have therefor tactically and strategically chosen to take the battle outside Lebanon for their own safety.
On the other hand, when it comes to the Sunni community in Lebanon, The May 7, incidents which showed Hezbollah’s force on the streets and left the Sunni community in a state of permanent trauma, has forced them to become weary of Hezbollah’s military might and since then, they will do anything to prevent this from re-occurring. In that sense, they cannot reconcile the role of the resistance and the presence of their weapons with the idea of a sovereign state.
This absolute lack of faith in each other, which is compounded by the financial reliance of both parties on external goliaths in the form of Saudi Arabia and Iran, who themselves are locked in their own struggle, has made it much harder to create and sustain a climate of collaboration in Lebanon.
I believe that the only way a President can be elected in Lebanon is if both the Shia and the Sunni communities stop looking to elect a champion that will defend their cause and instead elect someone who will with time address their mutual concerns, namely that Hezbollah needs to feel supported at this stage in its mission to defend itself and its right to continue as a force of resistance in Lebanon against Israel, and that the Sunni community of Lebanon needs to be reassured that Hezbollah will not abuse its powers over them through military force. It is obvious that their persistent call for the removal of Hezbollah’s weapons is a cause of breakdown of trust, but so is the need for the Sunnis to feel protected. The intention to find a workable solution for this divergence must be part of the formula for recovery and the choice of a president must be part of this process.
Therefore, as far as the Presidency is concerned a breakthrough lies in the cultivation of a perspective that recreates the basis for the mutual respect of the strengths and weaknesses of both parties, and an understanding of the root cause, which is the existential fear experience by each side under these tough regional circumstances. It is this fear that is blocking all progress in Lebanon today.
As a result, a President, who represents a tipping point in favor of one side or the other, is undesirable and part of the problem not the solution.
On the other hand, a Christian President is needed who understands this negative obstructive dynamic, who can act as a force of mediation and be a bridge of safety between the two communities by recognizing the real concerns of each party. I call this person a Fair president.
Let us hope that we can finally address the elephant in the room and replace it with a president for all Lebanese, because without a president Lebanon is failed republic. But, for this to happen, steps must be taken at a very high level to shed light on the deep underpinning concerns of both sides - concerns that are being circumvented by empty rhetoric, and to replace this polarizing discourse with acceptable, workable guidelines and positive compromises. Efforts should be made to create such a national forum.
June 30, 2015