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Lebanon's Irrelevant Presidency By: Charles Jalkh
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, October 27, 2006


In the race of history, some peoples resemble a rabbit running after a shrinking carrot. The carrot gets smaller but the rabbit keeps the pursuit, until the carrot vanishes ýcompletely, yet the rabbit continues to run by instinct.

Pursuing the seat of president of Lebanon with the hope of restoring or safeguarding the interests of the Christians in Lebanon is meaningless in the new Taef constitution. Lebanon’s political dynamic is not based on the presidential system anymore, rather on a more powerful (though not yet assertive) parliamentary system. Whoever controls the parliament -- which cannot be disbanded -- elects the president, names the prime minister, and gives confidence to the cabinet. A president without a parliamentary majority is powerless and will be forced into cohabitation, and so a prime minister and her/his cabinet would fall. They are both brought to power by a parliamentary majority, which would naturally dictate their loyalties and policies.

The belief by any Lebanese ethnic group that their confessionally assigned political post is any security to its members is simply a pure illusion. The only security lies in the protection of every single citizen through democracy, rule of common civil laws, and equal opportunity. The attempt to shift power between the first, second, and third presidency is equally futile and will always cause objections by one ethnic group or another.

Therefore, short of changing Taef, the path to power in Lebanon revolved around control of the parliament. Lebanese parties or individuals wishing to gain power should aim at gaining the majority of seats in parliament by convincing the majority of the Lebanese, or form a majority coalition united around solid principles and programs.

But no one party from the old feudal Lebanon is currently able to reach beyond its confessional base on its own. We have seen some relatively successful efforts by the Future Movement and the FPM to position themselves as multi-ethnic groupings, but we are still waiting for a true unifying ideology.

The March 14 groupings, despite their many common denominators and noble instincts, still lack the unifying ideology and secular structures/dialog necessary to unify the people. There are large constituencies in Lebanon that strongly support March 14, but many are not satisfied with the old political structures and have a yearning for a progressive liberal majority encompassing multiple ethnic groups.

Why not merge the Future Movement, the Socialist Progressive party, the Lebanese forces, the Phalange, Kornet Shehwan, the National Liberal Party, the National Block, along with pro-Lebanon Shiites, into a single long term coalition with a common constitution geared to serve all Lebanese, regardless of ethnic or religious background? Such a new party could change the political landscape of Lebanon for the foreseeable future. Unless March 14 reaches out with a progressive and concrete vision for all Lebanese, beyond the sovereignty issue, it will risk missing this most opportune moment in Lebanese history, when we feel strongest about our common destiny and aspirations.

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