Why I’m Against Proportional Representation (Nesbiyé) in Lebanon’s 2013 Elections

One of the main debates going on in the country currently is regarding the 2013 electoral law, mainly whether to include proportional representation in it or not.

Politicians’ views are already diverging on the matter and they break down to the following:

– Walid Jumblat: Against. He wouldn’t be totally dominant over the Druze vote and would lose a decent amount of his influence.

– Saad Hariri: Against. While he’s not as affected by this representation-wise as Jumblat, his stance has varied from being supportive of proportional representation to against it solely because he wants to bring Jumblat to his side for the elections.

– Hezbollah: With. They get about 90% of the Shiite votes in elections, which is where they have candidates. 90% in the proportional representation law would give them all the seats with very minimal effect. It’s a win-win situation for them so why not demand Lebanon as one district with proportional representation to have bigger gains across the map?

– Michel Aoun: With. Why wouldn’t he approve of something that would make him benefit from all the votes of the party mentioned above?

– Samir Geagea: No idea. He has made arguments than can go both ways so his stance regarding this matter hasn’t been fully formulated yet.

One of my main problems with proportional representation is that it is thought of as the cure to our system when it is far from being the case. Many believe that applying “nesbiyé” in the 2013 elections will start decreasing sectarianism by having different people from certain sects getting representation.

In order to do that, the electoral districts being thought of are getting increasingly bigger. Some are even suggesting to make Lebanon one whole electoral district. The argument? This is the only political elections where the population gets to vote so why not get the whole country to vote for everyone?

The way I see it an MP is a representative of their corresponding region first and foremost. Increasing electoral districts to make “nesbiyé” work will not lead to better representation. Or is it “representation” only when certain parties that wouldn’t dream of a parliament seat get one even if they don’t represent the woes of a region? Does a citizen from Beirut know what are my concerns as a citizen from Batroun? I don’t think so. Do I know what are the concerns of my friend in the South? Absolutely not.

What gives me the right to choose their MP and them mine? The sake of national unity? Please.

And for those who believe districts should be medium-sized, say according to the mohafaza – what do people in Batroun know about what a caza like Koura needs? What do people in Zgharta know about the demands of people in Bsharre?

When during parliamentary sessions an MP talks about his district as his main focus, you know this is what they represent not the whole country as we so gullibly want to believe. And it is definitely their right. The whole idea that we, as a country, need everyone to vote for everyone in order to reach unity is non-sensical. You don’t see it happening anywhere else in the world that a country votes for all the MPs its parliament has.

Let’s talk about how practical applying nesbiyé would be. I, in Batroun, get 2 MPs. In the 2009 elections, the margin for those who won was 53%-47%, which in a nesbiyé-equipped scenario means that the result wouldn’t be 2-0 but 1-1. Is that a representation of the will of the caza? Definitely not. Of course, applying proportional representation means Batroun would be merged with other districts, which brings me back to the point I mentioned previously. In reality, most cazas don’t have an overflow of MPs they get to vote to.

It is here that I have to ask: what’s the point of people voting and giving someone a majority when everyone gets to power either way? When I vote for someone and against another person, that means I do not want that person to represent me. If the results of my district turn out to be in my favor and the person who lost ends up in office anyway, then what’s the whole point of elections to begin with?

Moreover, in the current state Lebanon is finding itself today, especially with armed parties swaying the balance of power, would nesbiyé truly be fair, as it’s alluded to be, for parties that don’t have weapons?

In the current form of sectarian Lebanon today, when all sects except Christians give a majority that cannot be contested to one specific party, wouldn’t proportional representation with bigger districts dilute the Christian vote to a point of irrelevance as we’ve seen, for instance, in the 2000 and 2005 elections in certain districts?

In a country where division is based on sects and regions, any law will be accused of increasing either tension. The 2009 law is blamed for increasing sectarianism. We say that because we love to hide and pretend as if our regions are not a mass aggregation of people from one specific sect when, in fact, the only reason we look at the 2009 law negatively is because the results it brought about was a collection of people who couldn’t rule to begin with and others who don’t know how to rule.

Just take a look at a map of Lebanon and you’ll see exactly how one-colored most regions are. This is a demographically situation, not an electoral one.

No, proportional representation is not bad, as some politicians are saying, because it increases Syrian influence in Lebanon. Proportional representation is bad because it’s so ill-timed it is nowhere near the solution it is made out to be. It can only possibly work with bigger circumscriptions, and everything aside, this is an inherent flaw that cannot be ignored. It can only work when the political system of the country is not a disproportionate sectarian representation to begin with. It can only work when the main parties that will make part of it have, at least, some varying degrees of equal influence. When not everyone is fundamentally on equal footing, you can’t have a law that equalizes them in voting booths.

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13 thoughts on “Why I’m Against Proportional Representation (Nesbiyé) in Lebanon’s 2013 Elections

  1. I totally agree. We had this discussion over lunch yesterday. I think the one man one vote law would be best.

    Reply
  2. 1- “an MP is a representative of their corresponding region first and foremost” Wrong! there are local municipal elections where the region’s “woes” as you call them should be addressed. MPs are not national representatives today but they should be.

    2- “You don’t see it happening anywhere else in the world that a country votes for all the MPs its parliament has.” Wrong again! Almost all legislative elections produce NATIONAL representatives. They are only divided into electoral districts in order to facilitate the electoral process! Candidates don’t run for a region but for a party!

    3- “what’s the point of people voting and giving someone a majority when everyone gets to power either way?” what do you mean what’s the point? The point is for everyone to have a say in Parliament! Just because your favorite candidate can secure the majority, it doesn’t mean you can impose him on the rest of the country! Do you have no respect for other people’s opinion? Do you not understand the concept of a democracy?

    4- “in the current state Lebanon is finding itself today, especially with armed parties swaying the balance of power, would nesbiyé truly be fair, as it’s alluded to be, for parties that don’t have weapons?” Well first of all, everyone has arms. Second, let’s say they don’t, they have another kind of weapon that they use for intimidation, it’s called MONEY $$$$$!

    5- If Christians have truly become a minority and proportional representation protects minorities… Christians are better off with PR!

    6- Please stop misleading the public.

    Reply
    • Your whole comment is a bunch of wrongs. All of it. No exceptions.
      1) A municipality represents the woes of a region? Well try selling that to a parliament. It doesn’t happen. Why? Because it’s the MP’s job. No other way to spin this. An MP from X region represents that region first and foremost. No other way around this. It’s the same thing everywhere. Examples? US, France come to mind. Obama was the representative of Chicago in the senate. Romeny was the governor of MA. McCain is the senator of Arizona. They represent their regions. You spinning the Lebanese MP situation into a different way doesn’t mean you are correct. Sure, they need to transcend their situation to a national level but their base is their district.

      2) Legislative elections are divided on districts where each person gets one vote. The one with the most votes wins. I have way too many examples for this but, again, I reiterate the US and France. Since our constitution is based on the French let’s stick with that. Each region is divided into smaller parts where several candidates run and people vote for those candidates. They vote based on those they think is best for their region and country and depending on the party they support. It’s a multitude of reasons. You pretending as if there’s only one (party) is delusional. People in Lebanon will vote based on party. But they will also vote based on who can work for their region and get their demands on to national level. You ignoring this helps the country how exactly? (Rhetorical question fyi).

      3) The point is: I vote for X. X loses then I need to know why he/she lost and work on making him/her win next elections round. I don’t get a grace save and get X into parliament. This is not the way it’s supposed to be. The concept of democracy is rooted on the fact that the will of the people is represented. The will of the people is represented by a majority. The majority gets to rule. if that majority messed up, it should lose next elections. And the cycle repeats itself. Or is it only in Lebanon that regular democracy, applicable everywhere else, doesn’t apply? Other people sure have opinions. They can try and bring them forward. People might vote for them. You getting them into parliament even if they lost by a huge amount is imposing those people on voters who don’t want them. Do you not understand democracy?

      4) LOL so all parties have an arsenal of weapons they flaunt around? Ok. Money has the same effect as someone figuratively holding a gun to your head? LOL again.

      5) Let’s see… make Lebanon one district. Get the shiites to vote 90% for Hezbollah’s lists. Get the Sunnis to vote 80% for Future Mvmt. Now the Christians vote 55-45 to some list. Their effect becomes negligible. No other way to spin this. Christians are a majority in their regions. They are a minority on the national level.

      6) The only one who needs to stop misleading the public is you. We are all entitled to opinions. I respect yours now it’s your turn to respect mine.

      7) I will not let this turn into a byzantine debate because I simply don’t have time to a debate that leads nowhere.

      Reply
      • I do respect your opinion. You can say no to proportional representation. But you need to find better arguments to support your position. You’re tackling this issue from a highly politically-charged background. A clearly Rightist Christian background. A case in point: you say in (3) that the people’s will is represented by a majority. Then suddenly in (5) you have a problem with the majority’s opinion because it’s a shiite majority. Let me get this straight, when the majority’s opinion is your opinion then it’s the will of the people but when the majority’s opinion is not your opinion, it’s not the will of the people anymore?

        Listen, I’m a profoundly peaceful person with no bad intention here. No need to get defensive.

        Reply
        • I think the pro-PR arguments are baseless. The fact that you think I need to find “better” arguments while I think your pro-PR arguments are very weak is where we fundamentally disagree.

          3 and 5 do not oppose each other. If Hezbollah gets a majority in its regions, then be my guest. But to force a pro-Hezbollah majority on Lebanon by making the whole country one district, then that’s a whole other issue.

          Reply
  3. I’m fully with you on this. I’m Shiite. The only reason Hezbollah wants nesbiye is to increase its voting effect to the whole country. End of story. Regardless of what certain activists want to say, this truth cannot be contested.

    Reply
  4. Not that I am with this proportional representation, but this article is nonsensical. It is unstructured and flawed in its logic showing exactly how intolerant we, Lebanese, are of “the other”. For the lowbrows, the other is anyone who doesn’t agree with us. We need to learn to think beyond our villages and tribes. To illustrate, the argument about 53% of Batrounis not wanting the minority candidate can easily be reversed to say 47% didn’t want either of the other 2… Again I am not arguing for the proportional nonsense which contradicts with the claim that we are a democratic country. I believe as long as we reject the other – which is what the author here is so subtly saying – we as a country must not survive (for the sake of humanity)

    Reply
  5. Pingback: Hezbollah Has Effectively Won the Lebanese Presidency – Diashmond

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