One of Ali Baba’s Caves of the Middle East

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lebanon majlis al nawab
A view of an on-going parliament session. Photo - lp.gov.lb
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In essence, a sovereign state is a socio-political association of people that has a representative political system, autonomous judiciary, nationally and internationally acknowledged governing body and self-rule over a recognized demarcated geographic area which is not subject to another authority or state. However, in the Middle East, there are few states that could not fully observe these criteria even after decades of independence.

Consider a Middle Eastern country that could not uphold full sovereignty over its national territories nor could arrange security and serenity for its people since 1969 until now.

Think about a country where its citizens had to endure a devastating seventeen-years civil war during which they mourned the loss of more than 150,000 lives and prayed for the lives of more than two hundred thousand wounded.

Think about an independent state where its people had to overcome the aftermath of three destructive Israeli military invasions and occupations concurrently with twenty-nine years of military rule, suppression and exploitation of the Syrian Ba’athist regime—not to mention the militant rampage and ascendance of the so-called Palestinian revolution.

Consider a democracy where two elected presidents were assassinated in two horrible massive explosions after a month or so from winning the presidency, all because of their self-governing political goal and uncompromising predispositions about the Syrian military presence and dominance. Similarly, think about a country where two prominent prime ministers were brutally assassinated because they were unwavering and self-directed politicians (add regional and international influence to PM Rafic Hariri’s case), and a long list of murdered ministers, MPs, politicians, clerics, journalists, and senior military officers.

Look at the so-called democratic republic where its constitution was designedly amended on five occasions to extend the term of office of two presidents, and legalize the election of three army chief commanders to the presidential office — let alone how the presiding Speaker of the House still holds his office for more than twenty years–and counting.

Consider a country that has more than eighteen religious sects and over one hundred political parties whose only policies are to preserve the sectarian privileges and geopolitical interests of their particular sects, which put the country in continuous political confrontations and severe national discordance.

Think about a state that does not recognize any religion in its state constitution; yet, officially guarantees some archaic sectarian prerogatives and denominational advantages in which all public offices are allotted according to religions and sects, not to discuss the ingrained corruption and incompetence of its sectarian public service administrators and workforce. In addition to this ruinous sectarian system, the country’s mainstream politics has become so impaired at which government ministers and senior public servants are appointed or promoted to higher positions only if the political chieftains of the corresponding sect name them, irrespective of their qualifications and records of service.

Think about a democratic country, which took part in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, yet could not provide around-the-clock electricity and drinking water to its residents, not to speak of the unaffordable cellular communications, feeble internet connections, and the miserable conditions of other civic infrastructures and environmental issues.

Look at a country where the prices of fuel derivatives are repriced weekly in which the cost of 20 liters of gasoline, for instance, is around 8% of the minimum monthly wage; and where one medical visit costs at least 20% of the minimum monthly wage, no matter of its catastrophic effects on low-income families.

Consider a small state that has 125% (53 billion dollars) of the country’s GDP in reserve, yet fall short to provide decent public education, real social security coverage, and free medical care to 3.7 million citizens; knowing that  the government does not provide any social security benefit or medical coverage to  nongovernmental workforce once they became unemployed or retire.

Is it a democratic country or one of Ali Baba’s caves of the Middle East?

Regrettably, those terrible and destructive misfortunes were the actual course of actions for the last forty years in Lebanon and still coming forth of which the Lebanese are running out of hope, as the country’s state of affairs is deteriorating at every turn. Yet, in view of the severe socioeconomic and political downslope of the last two years, the Lebanese now wonder if Lebanon would become a peaceful self-governing state again.

lebanese flag
Hundreds of people gather in a town square to form the flag of Lebanon. Photo – district.dearbornschools.org

Since the assassination of PM Rafic Hariri in 2005 up to this time, the country is divided into two major political camps where each camp denounces and accuses the other camp with conspiratorial and treasonous allegations. The governing camp (currently 8 March coalition) denounces the opposition camp (14 March Movement) for reflecting the interest of the United States, EU, and Arab Gulf countries.

Whereas, 8 March coalition is widely condemned for the illicit heavy militarization of Hezbollah and the militant ill-practices of his armed Shiite followers in the country and abroad; and for his adoption and enforcement of Syrian policies and Iranian strategies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and other countries at the cost of Lebanon’s interests.

And, the result is that some hundreds of thousands of partisans from each political coalition condemn and criminalize the other camp and its supporters for being disloyal, dishonest, and self-serving, which divided the country into two antagonistic large blocs.

What about those nonpartisan Lebanese citizens who look ahead for a true political change and socioeconomic development, but were pushed aside and marginalized by these self-involved political headmen. Do they have the means to change this disastrous course? Luckily, yes. The Lebanese people have a forthcoming opportunity to bring on a major political change in the incoming parliamentary elections.

To that end, Lebanese citizens should forcefully act to comprise two must-haves in the upcoming new electoral law. The first one is about bringing forth of an autonomous permanent constitutional commission or official self-governing electoral body to impartially conduct, supervise, and finalize the elections free from any interference or influence. The second requisite is about putting pressure on the official authorities to enact an unvarying electoral law for parliamentary elections, whether it is a proportional representation or one-man-one-vote electoral system, provided that it delivers fair chances for independent candidates to join and win the race.

At the election, voters should keep in mind that though coalitions and power-sharing are desirable democratic practices; yet creating of electoral coalitions and alliances among political parties just to win the elections is a monopolistic maneuver that either discourages independent candidates to engage in the electoral process or enter the race with unequal chances.

Actually, recent experiences have demonstrated that similar electoral alliances, like those of Hariri-Jumblatt and Hariri-Mikati alliances in 2009, did not preclude Mr. Jumblatt or Mikati and their subservient MPs to jump from one political alliance to the other upon which they neutralized the momentum of 14 March movement and reversed the governing majority in favor of 8 March coalition.

To make political change possible, voters should consider dismissing most current parliament members in the incoming elections and select nonpartisan liberal independent candidates instead. At the very least of it, novel nonpartisan members cannot be worse than those dogmatists Lebanon now have.

In so doing, Lebanon might have a peaceful chance to regain real independence and be free from direct and indirect foreign dominance, corruption, favoritism, and ignorance of Lebanon’s chief politicians and their drum-beater MPs.

Otherwise, the unexpected civil storm will formulate soon.

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