Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘officially recognized religious sects

What Social and Political System?  What Electoral System after the withdrawal of Syrian troops?

Written in Dec. 5, 2004

Note:  This article was written a year before the Syrian troops withdrew from Lebanon as the international squeeze on mandated Syria was on to vacate Lebanon.

The dialogue on “what Lebanon we want for after the Syrian withdrawal” is still not serious and very superficial.

There are nowadays heated discussions about the parliamentary laws for the coming election in April and the heavy interference of the Syrian intelligence services in our internal affairs.

The coalitions of pro and con the current political orientations of the government in Lebanon have missed their targets.

Their political programs are non existent. Their political discourses are plagued by coded insinuations of pure sectarianism and a coward evasion to face the requisites of the future.  The society has made a full circle to where it was before the civil war.

The only differences are that:

1) the Muslim bourgeoisies (Sunni and Shia) have captured a sizeable share of the economy compared to the overwhelming monopoly of the Christian, especially the Maronite, bourgeoisie and

2) the polarization of the citizens into sectarian enclaves is almost complete throughout the land.

How the retreat of the Syrian forces from Lebanon would change this stagnant social fabric if we are still apprehensive of asking the right questions?

What forces would replace the Syrian forces to ensure law and order if there are no communication among the political parties?

How the Lebanese citizens could ever fall again into the trap that foreign powers could guaranty a long lasting stable political system that satisfies the interest of all the citizens?

We all know that the Lebanese Army (soldiers and officers) is old and still is no match to the entrenched militias who have been governing ever since the Taif agreement.

If Lebanon is to experience a profound and lasting rebirth, drastic political reforms have to be discussed at all levels in the society.

These reforms should attack the fundamentals of a civilized society, mainly a new Constitution and the clipping of the sectarian powers that is insidious in every phase of the citizen life and status.

What I propose is an alternative that would make digging of trenches a worthwhile endeavor if no rational responses are offered for a compromise.

I will develop two facets of Lebanon in the future:

First, the fundamental internal changes needed in the Constitution and

Second, the 4 political problems that are dividing the Lebanese society:  Mainly the presence of the governments with all its institutions in the South, the disarming of the Palestinian camps, the dismantling of all the armed militias, including Hezbollah and obviously, the withdrawal of the Syrian troops and its intelligence services.

The Constitutional acts to be discussed are as follow:

1) Half the parliament members should be represented by the female sex in accordance with the spirit of a true democratic representation.

The rationales: Women are more than half the population and their intrinsic problems are more intimately understood by them as well as their solutions. They will be the guarantee that their rights are fully considered, applied and secured.

2)   Election laws should be revisited.

Everyone who voted twice in any general election, municipality or parliament, and who can read and write in the Arabic language should be eligible to be a candidate. No fees should be attached to the application for candidature in order for the election to be for the people and by the people.

The minimum age for voting should be 18 so that new spirits and demands become major factors in political programs.

3)   Part of the parliament members should be elected on the basis of individual departments that would guarantee the fair representation of all religious sects.

The rationales: Electoral districts should include between 15,000 and 25,000 voters and a male and a woman deputy elected. This system might prevent unknown candidates to win by taking advantage of the notoriety of the other candidates on the list.

Also, this system will insure the representation of all sects implicitly and save the Constitution to be discredited by explicitly requiring that Christians and Muslims be equally represented.

Part of the parliament members should be elected on political party lines and syndicated affiliations and on the proportional basis.

The rationales: The political life in Lebanon is almost non existent because the political parties have been weakened and sidelined after the civil war. There is a strong link between the immigration of the youth and the political void that excludes them from expressing their dreams and their needs of varied opportunities.

I suggest that the election law allows voters to select two political parties so that part of the members should represent the political parties that come second in the ballot boxes. The second choices should be among parties that are non sectarian historically or have proven to include other religious affiliations in their membership.

The rationales: The non sectarian political parties should also be included in the first choice list of parties.  The second choice is important so that sectarian parties would embark on programs that would promote them to be acceptable by many more than one sect.

Everyone of the 18 officially recognized religious sects should be represented by one member in the parliament.

The rationales: It is becoming urgent that responsible and legitimate discussions on religious differences be aired to the public and how these different values might be affecting the interests of all citizens..

Decentralization and autonomy of the districts in the administration and financial spending on projects and programs so that competition heighten performance and efficiency.

The rationales: Many ministries have to be eliminated and decentralized so that communities start enjoying the benefits of the concept of subsidiaries.

Ministries like Youth, Sport, Tourism and Communication (Propaganda)…should be dismantled and regrouped within the administration of the districts (Mohafazat) and a post of a general counsel, for each one of these ministries, attached to the Prime Minister, has to be created in order to coordinate and harmonize among the administrations of the districts.

The districts have to keep three quarter of the tax revenue without the need to be redistributed by the Ministry of Finance at later date, if ever. I suggest that Lebanon should be divided into only 3 districts having a continuous link from the sea to the Bekaa Valley, direction west/east.

Beirut should NOT have a special status since all the central administrations are located in the Capital and would enjoy the expenditures of the central government anyway.

Competition for performance and attraction of investments would drive these districts into steady growth in all fields.

The Mohafazat should enjoy their seaports, local airports and equal number of citizens and land size. The local airports should service the internal requirements, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Egypt, Iraq, Turkey, and Cyprus.

Election of the administrative bodies of the Mohafazat should take place with the elections of municipalities.

The Northern and Southern regions should retain three quarter of the tax revenue for 4 years, because they were denied serious budget investment since Independence, the middle region two third and Beirut a third. These proportions should be revisited on the fourth year to establish an equitable balance.

As working examples, the North region might include the departments (Cadaa) of Batroun all the way to the northern borders of Lebanon with Syria and the Bekaa and Hermil to the East;

The South region might include the departments of Shouf in the north all the way to the southern borders of Lebanon and the Hasbaya and Rashaya in the East.

The Middle region might include the departments of Jbeil in the north, Aley in the South and Zahle and middle Bekaa in the East all the way to the eastern borders..

Civil marriage should be the law of the land.  Providing options outside the civil law is tantamount of increasing the power of the religious sects by their effective means of rendering the law virtually weak and inexistent

All marital rights and responsibilities, like heritage, divorce, adoptions and so forth should be governed by civil laws.

The rationales: It is about time that sectarian powers to our everyday life are reduced to their bare minimum and allowing the citizens to mingle, communicate freely and do commerce freely among them.

The President of the Republic should be elected by the people for 4 years with the option of being reelected for another single term.

The rationales: It is of paramount importance to curb this vicious cycle of making a mockery of the Constitution every six years in order to prolong the term of the President. A four years term with option for another full term would give strong incentives for the President to perform in order to be reelected for a second term. Personally, I would encourage the citizens to desist in re-electing a President for a second term.

The 3 highest political positions President, Prime Minister and Parliament head must be rotated according to their religious sect (Maronite/Christian, Sunni and Shia) every 8 years.

This rotational arrangement will be the best catalyst for thinking out a fairer Constitution and restructuring the rights and responsibilities of the highest political personalities

Ambassadors Extraordinary should be appointed in Beirut and Damascus.

General Commissioners for the inter commerce and common policies should be attached to the Prime Ministers in Beirut and Damascus.

Political Negotiation: How does it functions in Lebanon?

I recall many decades ago, patiently trying to finish my graduate studies, that I volunteered to help another Lebanese to set up his data base and input his data in an environmental study.

Two months later, while also involved in setting up my experiments and collecting data, this Lebanese asked me: “I want to pay you for your trouble and time invested…” I never got into any negotiation before, but I blurted out: “I volunteered to help you, so forget about the money issue…”

This graduate student insisted that I be paid, and for the form I said: “Okay, $100”. That was a pittance, given that the student is well-off, family and teaching jobs…

I recall when I came to the university 5 years ago, another Lebanese undergraduate student called up this guy and arranged that he spare me a room in his vast apartment out of town. There were no public transportation whatsoever, and I had to go with him to the university and return in his car in the evening.  I stayed for about a week.

All these years, I biked and lived in basements, and 4 part-time jobs could barely pay for my tuition: I was frequently broke and many nights I sleep with an empty stomach.

The “negotiation” was not about to end and it took another turn. The graduate student replied: “What? You have the guts to ask for payment?”  I said: “I said that I did it for free, if you want me to ask for $1,000 or ten dollars just decide…” He got even more upset: “What? Do you think that I am cheap and could not afford $100?”

Finally, he wrote up a check for $100, and I never heard from him. I think that I forgot his name. He was telling me that he was negotiating with many geology companies in California for a package over $60,000, at a time there were no jobs and no companies were hiring even graduate students…

It’s a warm spring afternoon in Beirut, the birds are chirping and Hamra street is as busy as usual. There’s a lottery salesman staring into the distance, and occasionally he takes a puff from his cigarette then goes back to staring.

An old woman is trying to cross the street, and a nearby family is watching the scene from a balcony on the second floor. A typical calm Beirut Afternoon.

Karl reMarks posted on April 19, 2013:

A man strolls into a shop and starts inspecting the bags on display with as much disgust as he can summon.  The salesman look at him then goes back to reading his newspaper. The psychological warfare has begun and neither man wants to reveal any interest.

It’s a battle of nerves, skill and composure.

The customer decides on an opening gambit. He sighs as if the bags on display have thrown him into an existential crisis, then points half-heartedly to one of the bags and asks “how much is this one?”

The salesman looks up from the newspaper: “you are a man of good taste, that’s one of our best bags. It’s 100 dollars.”

The customer draws two incredulous arches with his brows, whistles and says: “What do you think I am, a tourist? Don’t plan your retirement on this sale. I’m Lebanese, now how much is it really?”

“God forbid. Believe me, I’m only making five dollars on this sale. Come downstairs with me and I will show you the receipt. But I don’t want to make any money on this, you look like a gentleman, I will give it to you for $95.”

“I’m trying to buy a bag from you and you are performing a comedy show. I  don’t buy bags every day, I have to go to a relative’s funeral in Jordan. Do you want me to take my clothes in a plastic bag? Because of you, I will have to do that. You have no mercy.”

(Both the salesman and the customer know this is a lie, but the rules stipulate that you’re not allowed to point that out.)

“I am saddened for your loss. My condolences, this is God’s wish. Your story has really affected me, I will take a loss on this. $90 for you.”

“This is not meant to be. I am going to your neighbour’s shop, I heard that he’s a more reasonable man.”

The client makes for the door, the salesman pauses a bit then says:

“Be a patient man. How much do you want to pay?”

“$20”.

“$20? Are you trying to start a fight? That’s it, I’m fed up with this business, I’m closing the shop.”

The salesman pretends he’s about to move, but the customer decides a quick follow-up is needed.

“Look here, all my cousins will need bags. Give me a good price and I will send them here. How does $30 sound?”

“How about I give to you for $30 then take my children out of school and have them beg on the streets? Would that satisfy you? Because that’s the only way I can give it to you for $30. My last word is $80.”

“I will tell you what I will do. We will skip dinner for a few days just because you’re an inflexible man and give you $40 for it. I can’t pay one Lira more, I swear by God.”

“I will give you this Chinese one for $40, why do you need the Italian one? It’s not for you.”

“What will the neighbours say if I they saw me with a Chinese bag? You’re trying to ruin my reputation? $40 is a good price.”

“My brother, I told it cost me $95, I am already losing money on this.” Here he takes out a calculator and starts punching numbers at random while muttering some figures. Then he looks up:” Ok, just for you, I swear, I wouldn’t do this for anyone else, take it for $70. This is my final last word, not a Lira less.”

“Here’s $50, take it and give me the bag. But you’re robbing me, I swear this is illegal.” He tries to forces the money into the salesman’s hand, but the latter withdraws his hand quickly.

“God forbid. Khallas, that’s it, take it for free. I’m not taking any money. Here.” As he says that, he starts packing the bag and tries to hand it over to the customer.

“You’re insulting me. What do you think I am, a beggar? I am going to cancel this trip.”

“You are so stubborn. You have broken me, I have never met a customer like you before. Here, have it for $60 but please don’t tell anyone. They will think I am crazy.”

“$55 it is. Yalla, shake my hand and pack it for me.”

“No way. Not going under $60. I don’t know why I’m still in this business.”

“Ok, I swear by God you have exhausted my soul. $60 and you give me three of these pens with it.”

“$60 and I will give you one pen.”

He shakes his hand and takes the bag. “Have a good evening. You are a man of impeccable taste and generosity.”

“God forbid, you are the best customer I have ever had.” The customer takes the bag and walks way.

As he leaves, both men are left celebrating their victories.

Now, are you interested in understanding how political negotiations work in Lebanon?

For example, the current debate about the parliamentary election law.  Imagine that there are 20 salesmen and 20 customers and try to picture all the possible permutations of the scenario above, and repeated among all parties.

A decision can be made only when they all agree. That will give you a rough idea of the complexity involved.

Actually, make that 19 salesmen and 19 customers (number of officially recognized religious sects), but that’s my last word.

So you won’t say: “Adonis49 is acting cool, Not commenting on sectarian discussions”

I have not approached Lebanon conditions and upheavals for a month. It is not that I despaired from my engagement for drastic reforms, but it is becoming a vicious cycle of the same, and that a substantial break for positive reforms is not materializing on the ground.

Let us analyse the facts.

1. Lebanon is a tiny State of just 10, 425 sq.km with about 4 million, give and take one million (the latest census was done in 1935, during France mandate).

2. Lebanon is surrounded by two powerful regional powers (Syria and Israel), each one of these “powers” strongly believe that Lebanon is not a viable State: Syria claim Lebanon as an intrinsic province of Syria (historically and geographically), and Israel thinks that Lebanon, rich in water sources, is letting water go to sea…

Lebanon acquired a virtual independence from France in 1943, and the last French soldier vacated the land in 1946, the year Lebanon was recognized as State in the UN, three years earlier than Israel. Since then, Lebanon failed to institute a central government, a State that citizens feels they belong to, instead of the 18 officially recognized religious sects, which are in charge of every citizen civil status, and not the government!

A Lebanese “citizen” has been forced, through tailor-made election laws, to pay allegiance to his sect, and local warlord leader…

Two civil wars failed to produce a “winner”, and every surviving warlords, or his son, came back to power, being represented in government and the Parliament (actually, being appointed by the “Elite Club”)

In this social/political void, complete lack of sustainable central institutions, Hezbollah had no alternative but to fill the void. Hezbollah established a State. It could do it: Iran is an excellent State builder, and supported the constitution of this “State within a State” situation by all means available (financially, politically, militarily, ideologically, and organizationally…)

Hezbollah managed to defeat mighty Israel in July 2006, after barbaric bombardment that lasted 33 days. Hezbollah extended a new life to the “State of Lebanon”: Could the citizens rise and establish a real State to whom we can pay allegiance for representing every citizen longing for equity, fairness, and wide variety of opportunities…?

Why when the youth demand civil marriage laws, the “State” (government and Parliament) feels obligated to bow down to a single sentence from a religious cleric (regardless of the sect) when he claims “Civil marriage is blasphemy (Kufr)?”

Why when youth demand fair and equitable election laws, the State sidestep these demands by constituting “study council” with no power attached to it?  Several of these study groups were established, but the same biased election laws kept being applied, regardless of alternative proposals submitted to government and Parliament…

Why when women demand equal treatment in civil right laws, like their children being entitled to citizenship and not be tied to the husband exclusively, the State keeps dragging its feet?

People immigrate to safeguard a remnant of freedom and liberty in their life.

The urge for liberty encompass a wide range of necessary basic needs such as: Not dying of famine, finding relief of curable diseases, expressing opinions, right of gathering and communicating with free people, voting for representatives in equitable and fair election laws…

Christians in the Near-East have been immigrating for centuries, but in the last decade, waves are of the largest in scale.  You hear so many excuses and reasons for this mass immigration, but fundamentally, freedom lovers, regardless of religion, genders, or ethnic minorities are seeking breathable fresh air, a hope that they are able to transform their lives, if the proper conditions and environment are available to exercising their free-will…

People in the Near-East (regardless of religious affiliation) and who can afford it, are immigrating because they want to experience a life within the framework of a State.  We have been living without central States since independence from mandated powers: What we have are nominal States, simply because the UN has recognized us as a State.

The State is just a framework (a gathering of caste system) to facilitating and coordinating trade-off of interests among the caste system. Lebanon is the most cruel environment for “doing it yourself” to survive: We cannot count on any sustainable institution to providing health care, education, electricity, potable water, affordable food, job opening,…

Lebanon has signed on every imaginable convention that the UN promoted. Why should a non-State sign on anything it cannot deliver?

Why the UN should even humiliate us by stating: “We consider Lebanon liable for not delivering on its responsibilities…”  How a practically Non-State is to satisfy any international condition or resolution?

Can’t we ask for a recognized State with no voting right? Like the one extended as an option for the Palestinian State? Since all our votes are never yes or no?  Since we cannot afford to alienate regional powers and UN veto-power States?

Why should Lebanon feels cornered at every situation and end up voting neutral?  Why Lebanon should be constantly threatened of a civil war if we decide to have a stand and a position? Even a nominal position?

We are being heaped with all kinds of internal and external indignities; we have been humiliated as “citizens” for 70 years, and there is no light at the end of this obscure tunnel.

Lebanon was not meant to be a State. We should receive a UN passport and let us deal with our lives anywhere opportunities knock. Period.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2020
M T W T F S S
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  

Blog Stats

  • 1,427,014 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.adonisbouh@gmail.com

Join 774 other followers

%d bloggers like this: