Wednesday, May 11, 2005

15 out of 65 is a scandal!

Yesterday, I witnessed a rarity in Lebanese political discourse - the effective utilization of numbers. The Maronite clergy announced in their statement that only 15 out of 65 Maronite MPs are accountable to their constituencies. The rest of them have to answer to political honchos like Jumblatt, Berri, Hizballah and Hariri.

15 out of 65!!! Wow! I've heard over and over again that Lebanese Maronites were underrepresented in the post-taef era, but nothing I ever heard was as dramatic or powerful as 15 out of 65.

Thus far, in Lebanese Bloggers, I have dedicated my posts to challenging the sectarian status quo and advocating for a secular, and ultimately more prosperous Lebanon. Today, however, after hearing what I heard, I've decided to take a few steps back and say that in today's Lebanon, such a statistic is scandalous. It is unacceptable because it completely demolishes the notion of a Lebanon that is composed of Christians and Muslims who deal with each other on an equal footing (i.e. 50-50). It is also unacceptable on the grounds of Democratic principle. The remaining 50 MPs are not accountable to modern political parties with national agendas that encompass their regions, but rather to parochial leaders who care first and foremost for their "own people" in their own regions!

The electoral law must be changed! As long as politics remains sectarian, and the notion of 50-50 remains valid, the 15 out of 65 situation is simply unacceptable.


Anonymous said...

High five Raja...

Doha said...


Berri has agreed to holding a parliamentary session to discuss Geagea's release, but warned that the session should not include the electoral law issue. It is in his hands, Raja. The pro-Syrians are benefitting from such internal turmoil, unleashing the likes of Berri, the Murrs and Franjieh to fuel the situation. I am disappointed that many of the Lebanese are falling into that trap.

I believe that I agree with Gebran Tueni who urges others not to fall into the trap that has been set for all of us:

Tueni wrote, "no one listened and the district law remained captive with the parliament's Speaker without tabling it for a vote. The purpose is clear: to let Lebanon reach the brink of collapse and fragmentation to eliminate the dream of the Lebanese youth, the dream of March 14 Intifada."

The writer contended that the mastermind of this conspiracy had cleverly coordinated it with the outside and the interior, including the newcomers into opposition ranks who are deluging the Christian society with new-found solicitation for the Christian society after 15 years in power siding with Syria's tutelage.

He also stressed on the need for an inter-Christian unity as the only true immunity against internal and external intrigues.

Anonymous said...

Oh come on people, it is always about the conspiracy! It is always outsiders doing this to us. Everyone should SHUT UP and get on with the election. All the candidates will be accountable to the people of Lebanon , not Christian or Muslim! The Taef accord calls for the Province as the electoral district and not the Kazaas. The Patriarch should stop pontificating on political matters and leave it to the politicians to do it.

Raja said...


if the Maronite Patriarch says that there's something wrong, then something has got to be wrong. Franjieh, the Murrs and the Lahouds have their agendas, and have been pulling on sectarian strings since the very begining. LBC is just the same. But, the Patriarch, in my opinion, does not owe his power or influence to Syria or to lowest-common-denominator rhetoric. He appears to be a pragmatist - and when he comes out to complain, then it should be a clear message to everyone that something is definitely wrong. Also, forget the Patriarch, just look at the stats.... I mean, even if Murr said "15 out of 65" I would have noded my head in agreement!


I am afraid that something is wrong with your analysis. One of the major incentives for politicians to do what their constituents want is the desire to get reelected. In Lebanon however, the overwhelming majority of MPs owe their seats to a handfull of "power-houses" who decide whether or not to put them on their list for the next round of elections.

Therefore, although your asserssion that "...all the candidates will be accountable to the people of Lebanon , not Christian or Muslim..." is a nice ideal, it is definitely far from reality. Ignoring a sad reality is as bad as accepting it.

In my opinion, there are three solutions:

1. get rid of the "powerhouses" so that politicians become accountable only to the people (ya right!!)

2. Somehow make them more accountable and responsive to the people, so that even if the other MPs depend on them, at least they are more accountable

3. Merge and morph them into national political parties that bring all Lebanese (Sunni, Maronite, Shi'a, Druze, Orthodox, etc...) into two or three camps that all seek to win their seats in power.

For now though, if we would like to continue believing that Lebanon is somehow fair because Muslims and Christians share power equally, then the electoral law needs to be adjusted accordingly. The rhetoric of 50-50 needs to be a reality on the ground!

Doha said...


The opposition has met and has agreed to form consolidated lists across the country to mitigate the negative effects of the 2000 electoral law; even the Tayyar Al-Mustaqbal has postponed releasing their Beirut lists. Changing the law was not broached in the bristol gathering statement. We cannot have the elections postponed till October; even the Patriarch has promised to hold elections on time when he returned from Lourdes, he claimed then that the whole world has its eyes on us. And the world still is.

On another note, the Al-Mustaqbal's editorial noted something intersting: that MP Ghattas Khoury, whose a Maronite and in Hariri's bloc, should not be used as a bargaining chip with the christian opposition's demands. He voted against the President's extension of his term, towing a different line from his bloc, because he wanted to represent his constituency's views. And the late Hariri respected that, because Hariri, unlike what the likes of Murr or Franjieh, did not want an "Islamized" Christian, but a true Christian in his/her own right. We shouldn't leave the good ones behind; let the facts speak for themselves...

Anonymous said...

Raja wrote:
One of the major incentives for politicians to do what their constituents want is the desire to get reelected.

I agree with your incentive argument and it is the reason I advocate for larger districts. As long as we have small electoral districts we are going to stay tribal.
How do you expect them to merge into national political parties by entrenching an electoral law that promotes tribalism? No one here addressed the constitutionality of the matter, Taef Taef Taef..
Even the American have had enough of the Patriarch and his inflammatory rhetoric.

Charles Malik said...

Voting by mohafazat does not create national parties.
Maronites in Jezzine think, live, and work in a Keserwan mindset. Trabulsi Sunni are far different from Bar Elias or Saida Sunni. The Shia in Bint Jbeil are far different from those in Jbeil.
This is a parliamentary system. But not like any other parliamentary system I have seen.
Power will now come through brokering deals internally. I any Christian wants to become President, any Sunni PM, or any Shia Speaker he will have to win the votes of his comrades without Syrian intrusion.
Issues related campaigns will begin to emerge and socialists from Bsherri will ally with socialists from Baalbak.
But asking for all of that right now is asking a bit too much.

Hussein said...

Why should Muslims elect Muslims and Christians elect Christians? What about whoever is left out by this categorization?

To me, this is what Sfeir is calling for. And to my sorrow, I see the self-proclaimed "reformist" politicians picking up the mantle and wearing it.

I find it sad that even you guys did not pause and think. Why do people in Lebanon hold so much reverence to religious authorities? What happened to the young free thinkers who are heralding change?

You call it realism. What’s real is that the majority people in Lebanon, including the young, are drenched with religious and spiritual sentiments, down to the bone.

Anonymous said...

The Kadaa law is a defacto breaking of the country into ghettos. I say get on with the elections and worry about a long term solution afterward. Many of Syria's thugs will be voted out with the 2000 law, Murr, Lahoud junior, Quanso, Arslan, etc. Things can work out. Jumblatt has opened up spots for the LF in the chouf, Hariri is trying to work things out in Beirut, the north can have some formidable alliances between the LF, Tayyar, and Hariri to get rid of Karami and even Franjieh.

I think Berri's comments today were very responsible so were Jumblat's . Sfeir needs to cool it down a bit.

Mustapha said...


Samir Kassir from Annahar reveals the fallacy of the 15/64 figure in this article.

As for your admiration of the Patriarch, to me, he's now nothing but another old, unelected, unaccountable religious figure.

The Beirut Spring

Anonymous said...

samir kassir didn't reveal any fallacy, but after twisting and contorting he increased the number from 15 to 38 deputies. but the christians have the right to choose all their 64 deputies. same thing for the muslims. this is the coexistance spirit. otherwise what's the point? what's the point of having a maronite hezbollah deputy? someone explain what does it accomplish?

Maya said...

I agree with you Hussein. It's a shame that we are so narrow-minded that we can only think in terms of religeous identity, versus political party.
Raja, I like your idea to combine relligeous parties into 2 or 3 political parties instead.
Unfortunately, I don't think people are ready for such drastic changes yet. Patience... hopefully it will happen.
Also, about the 50 / 50 rule. I don't think it's right for Christians to be under represented. But then again, keep in mind that Lebanon is not 50% Christian, 50% Muslim. It's more like this:
Muslim 59.7% (Shi'a, Sunni, Druze, Isma'ilite, Alawite or Nusayri), Christian 39% (Maronite Catholic, Melkite Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Roman Catholic, Protestant), other 1.3%
source: CIA world factobook.
Just a thought to keep in mind when speaking of "fair" representation.
Despite all this, I am still against sectarianism and wish we could elect politicians on the basis of their values, political agendas and what they can do for our country. Not because they are from my religeon, my village, or even my family! And certainly not because they paved my sidewalk!