What’s Worse Than Lebanon’s Lawmakers Stealing Our Right To Vote

June 20th, 2017. Save the date, for it will be the time Lebanon’s current parliament extends its mandate for the third time in a row. Some people like the taste of power. Those who like power in Lebanon can’t get enough of it.

Apart from the ramifications of the extension, many of which you will probably be hearing about until elections happen in who-knows-when, here are a few observations about myself amidst this political fuckery:

  • I’m a soon-to-be 25 year old who, according to our laws and regulations, is basically equipped with full legal responsibilities and whatnot, but I’ve never – ever – voted for anything, and by the looks of it will never do.

Contrast this with my American cousins whose ages range from 20 to 26 and who have voted at least twice so far in the past 2 years alone, the last of which was yesterday. Those Americans… they fight ISIS here, Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and they still manage to hold elections every other two years. Teach our politicians, why don’t you?

  • By extending its mandate till 2017, Lebanon’s lawmakers have made sure that I, along with a substantial portion of Lebanon’s youth, will never – ever – get to have a say in who becomes a parliament member.

I will immigrate and be out of the country by 2016. Ironically, I will most likely be attending (but sadly not participating) in the American presidential elections that year, but at least I’ll be able to say that the past 6 years, in which I should have witnessed, in theory, a presidential election, two parliamentary elections and municipality elections, haven’t been election-less, although I have witnessed the Syrian presidential elections on my territory; I guess the situation wasn’t bad enough for that not to happen.

Most of the people I know are against parliament’s mandate extension, and so am I. But somehow, after thinking about this for about the fifteen minutes that it deserves amidst this country’s sewage-like level of politics, I realized that the bigger travesty of this parliament’s extension is that our MPs, or all 95 of them who attended, were so full of themselves that they didn’t see anything wrong with extending their mandate for an extra two years and seven months.

The biggest and sadder travesty that occurred today is also the fact that those same parliament members who have failed to ensure quorum since that first round of presidential elections way back when, have found quorum for the sole purpose of ensuring they can fail to gather quorum for the next two years and seven months, while getting fully paid for their lack of services.

The saddest aspect of today is that there are still Lebanese out there who can’t think for themselves and who think that their politicians of choice were correct in voting the way they voted today or in not attending today’s session, as if those voting for the extension did so unpredictably and those who didn’t attend, while being in the government and making sure none of the regulations needed to make sure parliamentary elections take place are passed, have also effectively supported the extension from the get-go and were searching for the best way to go around mass Lebanese (Christians mainly) scrutiny.

Ironically fitting for Mr. Bassil and his party's MPs to "want to fight the power from inside," don't you think?

Ironically fitting for Mr. Bassil and his party’s MPs to “want to fight the power from inside,” don’t you think?

Today has also revealed exactly how silly, stupid, ridiculous and retarded this whole debacle is with the realization that there are Lebanese people who will actually be voting for parliament members in Kuwait on November 7th (this Friday) and in Sydney, Australia on November 9th (this Sunday) because, as of now, we are all still voters who are supposed to vote for parliament soon, pending the publication of today’s decision in the Official Gazette. What will the votes of those Lebanese amount to? The answer is exactly the same as all our votes: toilet paper for our MP’s behinds.

IMG_8187

But I digress. There are, believe it or not, worse things taking place today thanks to those very lawmakers that should be noted, especially today:

1 – Presidential Elections:

Get this: 97 MPs gathered in parliament today, making up more than 2/3 majority required to vote on major bills, in order to extend their mandate. Those MPs voted 95-2 on the bill in question. However, for the past 6 months, those same MPs have not only failed to gather quorum for presidential electives, many of them have actively campaigned against ensuring such a quorum. By ensuring no president is elected, those MPs have made a nice bundled argument for themselves on the necessity of another mandate extension is required to avoid that dreaded void. If you think about it, it’s a nice little Lebanese catch 22. It’s not that they’re too smart; it’s that they’ve become so accustomed at fooling everyone that they make it seem like what they do is for the best of the Lebanese population they’re busy screwing over day in, day out.

It’s okay, though, who needs a president anyway.

2 – Elections Law

When those 128MPs got to power in 2009, they all agreed that a new electoral law was a necessity to be done in those 4 years during which they would serve their country and citizens. The reality was a vacation for the first two years, a wake up call on year 3, a few months of hectic sprints in year 4, jumping from one absurd law to another more absurd law (you do remember the Orthodox proposal, of course, however long ago that seems right now) until they realized that the whole issue was too tiring and decided to postpone for themselves the first time, saying that they will use those extended 18 months to work on a new law.

How many hours have those MPs spent in those 18 months working on a new electoral law? Approximately 0.

In fact, not only is the lack of an electoral law after more than five and a half years a tragedy, but any electoral law that will arise from this parliament in question will be tailor-made to please everyone and, effectively, keep the status quo as is. Do you really think they’d agree to what’s fair if fairness meant they’d be kicked out of Nejmeh Square?

3 – What If Elections Happened On November 16th?

Let’s assume, however, that our parliament decided that the democratic process was, contrary to actuality, important. Let’s assume that they swallowed their overgrown prides and decided to campaign for our votes in about 11 days and try out for the Guinness World Record for shortest election delay ever. Now that’s something we can teach those Americans. Let me give you an example of the broad array of candidates that I could have voted for in Batroun:

2014

2014

 

The names sound familiar? That’s because you know them all. Gebran Bassil (name #2) is THE Gebran Bassil. Boutros Harb (name #4) is my current MP and the minister of telecom. Antoine Zahra (last name) is the LF-go-to-spokesperson for fiery speeches and my other MP.

Now contrast the above list with that of those who were running for elections before parliament underwent its first extension in June 2013:

2013

2013

I would advise a game of “spot the difference,” but it’d be essentially futile as there are basically none. If elections were to happen on November 16th, our tax money would be spent to make sure that those same MPs, across all Lebanese districts, get not a two year and seven months mandate that is illegal, but a four year mandate that is legal. It’s not just because they made sure we vote based on a law that preferred them, but because we are left without a choice and because the bulk of those who vote, as in the people that exist outside of Twitter and Facebook (they exist!), do not vote the same way we do. And, because who the hell are we kidding, many of us as well would vote for the same people again, just because of familiarity.

4 – They’re Working Overtime

So what has our parliament done in the 18 months of its first extension? They worked of course. Overtime. They worked to ensure that a president is not elected (read point #1). They worked to make sure that the workers’ benefits and whatnot are not voted on, that a quorum is never reached. They worked overtime to make sure that Lebanese students who presented their official exams this year never get results and end up with certificates of passing, the tales of which our parents had told us back when they were going through school during the times of the Civil War.

They worked overtime to make sure a proper bill protecting women from domestic abuse isn’t passed. What we got instead was a maimed piece of legislation, aimed to please this religious leader or that, but still managing to keep our women under the thumbs of their husbands or partners.

They worked overtime not to work on an electoral law, not to legislate a stance from the Syrian war, not to basically do anything except get paid for doing no work in overtime.

5 – The Divide Is Christian/Muslim, not M14/M8

Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of the past several months on the Lebanese scene is the fact that the game has changed from being a March 14 versus a March 8 game, to becoming full blown Christian blocs versus Muslim blocs over the essential issues in the country, at a time when the Christian-Muslim divide, in Lebanon and elsewhere, is at an all time high.

As Ramez Dagher, on his blog Moulahazat, put it:

What is scary here isn’t that Lebanese politicians lie and steal and deceive and postpone elections. That, we already know. What is truly scary here is that 25 years after Taef, we are starting to witness an obvious rapprochement between the Christian parties while a rivalry between the Muslim blocs and the major Christian ones is becoming more apparent by the day. Every time there’s an important law debated in parliament – Such as the electoral law or the extension law – the rift is yet again Christian/Muslim instead of M8/M14: 10 years after the creation of these alliances , it seems that they were more based on an electoral than ideological ground.

If there was one beautiful thing about the March 8 and 14 alliances, it was that they were religiously diverse. And now – with ISIS on our gates and with vacancy and dysfunction everywhere in the political establishment – is literally the worst time to lose that.

Conclusion:

Too long, didn’t read – the summary to you is as follows: Living in Lebanon is living in shit, but at least we have the biggest platter of hummus, fattouch, lemonade cup, biggest burger, longest falafel sandwich and we’ve officially wed George Clooney to one of our daughters. You’re welcome for the realization.

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