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.

Lebanon: A State of Sectarianophobia

Two Lebanese go out together to have dinner. They had never met before. They know nothing about each other.
The first looks at the second and asks: “what’s your name?”
The second glares and replies: “why do you want to know? You want to know my sect, don’t you?”
The first is perplexed. Wasn’t someone’s name part of the natural process of knowing that someone? Or asking about their hometown?
How can you know someone if you don’t know a minimum of their basic information?
Well for many Lebanese, if you ask these questions then you’re automatically labeled as sectarian filth.

Our society has gotten so afraid of the idea of sects that we tend to see sects everywhere and cower away from them. No, when someone asks you their name, they don’t always seek out to know know your sect. When someone asks you where you come from, their intention is not to always know your sect. Get over yourself.

Our fear from sects doesn’t stop at that. We also have our stereotypes that we associate with every person, depending on their answer to the previously mentioned questions. A Maroun from Mount Lebanon? He must be one of those people who think France should have stayed here. A Hussein from the South? Hezbollah galore right there. A Omar from Tripoli? Saad, Saad, Saad, Saad, Saad.

We ask ourselves not to be limited by our sects and yet, when it comes to it, we limit each other immediately based on our preconceptions. Have you ever tried to have a heated political debate with a Lebanese who drastically disagrees with you and somehow they ended up blaming your sect for your opinion? It has actually happened to me more than once. Somehow, for many people, the idea of thoughts and a mind independent of your sect does not exist. How could it, right? Sects are to blame for everything in the country.

There’s traffic? Blame the sectarian system. There’s electricity outages? Blame the sectarian system. There’s water shortage? The sects must be overly drinking. We are so hell-bent on finding a scapegoat to blame for everything that we have managed to turn sects into monsters hurting our society like nothing else has.

Perhaps our main problem as a society is that we are so afraid of the idea of sects that we see it a monstrous thing that needs to be abolished.
At the end of the day, if me asking for your name makes me sectarian, then yes I am.
If me asking for your last name makes me sectarian, then yes I am.
If me asking for your hometown makes me sectarian, then yes I am.
If me not thinking sects are monsters makes me sectarian, then yes I am.
If having political ideas that fit with your sectarian stereotype makes me sectarian, then yes I am.
If me not panicking about the mere mention of sects makes me sectarian, then yes I am.
If my ideology being too extreme for you makes me sectarian, then yes I am.

Yes, I am sectarian. But I’ve got news for you… so are you.

A Few Words From an Angry Maronite

[Notice] For those who think talking about one’s sect is sectarian, this post is not for you. For everyone else, proceed with caution. 

Today, February 9th, marks the memory of the founder of the Maronite Church: St. Maroun. Most Maronites would start exhibiting pride in their heritage on (and leading up to) this day. I’m fairly certain if you look at your Facebook news feed at this very moment, you’ll find about five or six friends sharing pictures of St. Maroun.

Of course, Maronites have every right to be proud of their heritage. They have simply withstood so much in the rough mountains of Lebanon, they have fought for Lebanon like possibly no other sect has done and they have the greatest hand in the founding of the state of Lebanon. I’d give historical proof here but I don’t think that’s necessary.

Among all the Lebanese sects, the only sect that kept believing in the idea of “Lebanon” throughout the years was the Maronite sect. And for that, as a Lebanese nationalist, I am proud.

But today, as I write this, I cannot but feel angry at Maronites: church, politicians and people.

The land:

I’m angry because the people are selling our land to whoever, however, whichever and for whatever reasons. I get infuriated when I hear that most of the land in certain villages has been sold to foreigners, regardless of the sect of those foreigners. It pisses me off that nobody seems to care about this as well. We actually care more about valet parking fights and useless comedy skits than about our own land. And that is very sad. It angers me that some of our politicians are among the people selling their land, as if they needed the money. You know, the monthly payment they get for life for being voted into office isn’t enough for expenditures. I’m angry because our church keeps preaching about not selling the land but does nothing with the wide resources it has about it. I’m angry because our grasp on our country is lessening not because of outsiders but because we, as insiders, are weak and easily tempted by everything materialistic that you don’t necessarily need.


I’m angry that the Maronite community is panicking regarding what’s happening in the region while they have no reason to be this afraid. Cautious, perhaps. But panic? Definitely not. I’m angry that certain politicians fuel this panic to serve their agenda. It angers me that the Maronite church is not doing anything to lessen this. On the contrary, it’s preaching that we should be afraid for our heads. Why should we afraid? What worse can happen to us as a community after the fragmentation we had to endure for over fifteen years because of the Syrians and because of our internal differences? What could be worse than to be constantly afraid because of something that is not threatening you directly? What could be more debilitating that to constantly live in fear?

Let me answer that for you. Nothing. And yet we live in fear. We are constantly worried that our thirty parliament seats will be taken away from us, that the president will no longer, someday, be forced by law to be a Maronite, that our homes will be ripped off from under our feet and that we’ll be shipped off to Canada or some other Western country that would accept us.

Politics is cyclical. Maronites had their reign, the Sunnis had their reign, the Shiites are having their reign. And the cycle will turn, however vicious it may be. I’m angry that we didn’t learn from our mistakes when we were in power and we will probably repeat them when we find power again.

The Politics:

I’m angry that our politicians cannot agree on anything regarding our community, regardless of who they are. We vote for them, we put our trust in them and yet nothing happens. And then we vote for the same people again because the alternative makes us rightfully cringe, regardless of where you fall on the cringing spectrum. We cannot agree on an electoral law that would serve our best interests. We cannot agree on managerial appointments that we are “entitled” to in order to run the country. We cannot agree about a grand scheme that we believe the country should be heading to. What we can agree upon is that each politician is living in the delusion of being the representative of Maronites when, at the end of the day, we are as fragmented, as divided, as weak and as paranoid as we’ve always been and we can also agree that the state of our politics is disheartening, miserable and dishonest.

The Grandeur:

I’m angry that we, as Maronites, have a false sense of grandeur about us – of the sort “Alla khala2na w kasar l aleb.” Modesty goes out the window when we’re discussing our sect, even without practicing it. Who, among you, actually goes to church every Sunday? Not many, I suppose, including me. Who, among you, actually knows something more about St. Maroun apart from the fact that we get a day off on February 9th because of him? Not many, I suppose, including me (unless what I read on Wikipedia can be considered valid). Who feels proud that they are Maronite just because of the “perks” it entitles you? Many people, I suppose. Who feels proud to be a Maronite just because it makes you not “them”? Many people, I’m sure. Who feels proud to be a Maronite just because…? Many people as well.

I guess I have many reasons to be angry, as a Maronite, as a Lebanese, as a resident of a certain caza, of a certain town. I am a Lebanese angry about many things in my country, especially Maronites because we keep messing things up. And the worst part is? We take pride in messing things up.

Yen3ad 3leikon jami3an w 3a2bel kell sene.

PS: I made this post not detailed on purpose, so an element of vagueness remains to it; thus, making it applicable to everyone, regardless of political affiliation.

Some Arabs Need To Get A Grip On Their Egos

I stumbled upon a very interesting article online yesterday, written by Robert Fisk, that discussed mainly how the “Arab Awakening” did not start with Tunisia in December 2010 but with Lebanon in March 2005.

So I shared this article via my twitter page with my friend Ali, whom I knew believed in the idea the article discussed.

Soon enough, I started to receive tweets about how we, as Lebanese, have a false sense of grandeur, how we are “insecure buffoons”, how our pride blinds us, how we claim fake glory, how Lebanon inspires no one, etc…

I wouldn’t naturally reply to such things, but I did reply, only to get even worse tweets about how we, as Lebanese, are basically nothing.

Even some of the comments on some YouTube videos online basically say how ridiculous Lebanon is to run a show like Star Academy while the region is busy running revolutions.

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