Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Lebanon’s Ironic Democracy | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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There are countries that take pride in being democracies while others proclaim they are not, and you cannot judge except those who resorted to the ballot box.

Lebanon has always held on to its democratic image even when it was going through its worst times and enduring wars – but never before has its sense of democracy been shattered in the way some have done today. They have disfigured and transformed it into an object for satire and contempt in the eyes of everyone. The president who has retained his post by force is patronizing and raising doubts regarding the legitimate government. The parliamentary speaker, who is supposedly the leading protector of democracy, is playing bad cop and preventing the MPs from meeting. Lacking the quorum to overthrow the government, the democratic resistance is crudely demanding its abolition, sending its sons to lay siege to the government headquarters instead of resorting to the law.

And thus, the Lebanese parliament has joined the list of ridiculous Arab parliaments. Some sought to mock the Lebanese and their democracy and succeeded in making it a glaring farce thinking, ‘Here is the democracy you take pride in; a president who is not so, an elected opposition that threatens rather than votes, and a member of parliament who is against the parliament. The Lebanese MPs could not convene because the speaker does not wish to call the parliament into session, insisting on keeping the house’s door firmly locked. It is a most unusual case in the history of parliaments worldwide wherein the parliamentary speaker prevents the MPs from meeting while no one can do a thing against him.

We have become accustomed to having the military or the security apparatuses hindering and preventing the democratic movement – not the parliamentary speaker who is presumably the protector of national development and a representative of the people not their oppressor. But what is even more bizarre is for a professor and veteran politician like Dr. Salim al Hoss to come out and say that the government is illegitimate because a large portion of the public does not recognize it. Just like that? Since when are governments removed based on the belief of those who do not deem it popular? It is regrettable that a distinguished man like al Hoss concludes his political career playing the role of one who justifies chaos and the illegal calling to topple the government.

The opposition’s refusal to participate in the government is legal but not sufficient to overthrow it – regardless of al Hoss’s statements that he believed the government was not accepted by a large segment of the people. Additionally, attempts to block paths and straiten cabinet ministers is an act of bullying that will remain a stigma for the opposition, as will the speaker’s prevention of fellow MPs from practicing their parliamentary rights.

Tomorrow, it will not be stated that there was a political battle fought between the majority and the minority for this is the nature of politics. But it will be said that democratic expression was distorted and some politicians were used as puppets in a comic show and that the whole society and its democratic experience were mocked.

Lebanon has 18 sects and there is no option save protecting democratic practice – even for those who disagree with the outcomes – because that’s the only thing keeping the fighting off the streets.