This article was originally published in Annahar Newspaper on June 6th, 2014. Kindly scroll down for the English translation.
فلننقذ وطننا ونعطِ أنفسنا السلطة لانتخاب رئيس
في تاريخ 15 شباط 2014، نشرتُ مقالاً على صفحتي الالكترونية www.saraelyafi.com اقترحتُ فيه أن ينتخب الشعب رئيس الجمهورية في لبنان وليس مجلس النواب. كما طلبتُ من قرائي تسمية الشخص الأنسب رئيسا لهم، فتجاوب المئات. ثم تبين لي ان بعض وسائل الاعلام طرحت هذا الاقتراح ايضا على متابعيها، اما لاقتناعها بجدواه او لسبب آخر، وقد تجاوب معها عشرات الآلاف من المواطنين، هذا هو الاهم.
ان ما أقترحه هو ان يعمد المرشحون للرئاسة الى التلاقي لاجراء مناظرات والنقاش على مختلف الصعد، من خلال ظهورهم عبر وسائل الاعلام، ليعرض كل منهم برنامجه وخطته الانمائية والاقتصادية والسياسية، فيتاح لوسائل الاعلام اجراء الاستطلاع اللازم لدى الشعب لمعرفة حظوظ اختياره.
Let us save our nation by granting ourselves the power to elect our president.
On February 15th 2014, I published an article on my website www.saraelyafi.com making a case for the people of Lebanon to directly vote for our President instead of the Parliament. In the same article, I ran a poll asking my readers to vote for their preferred candidate. Hundreds cast their votes. Shortly after, whether by trailing example or by sheer coincidence, it seems that the media took a liking to this mock-democracy exercise and made their own polls too. Tens of thousands more participated, and that is the essential.
Our democratic experience in the media calls for optimism because it has illustrated an overwhelming desire among many citizens to have the president of the republic elected directly by them and not via the Parliament. Those very few who objected did so for disappointing sectarian reasons saying “I disagree because this would mean that the Muslims would vote in the President”, and such a premise does not appeal to this category. I respond to them by denouncing their argument as illogical and categorically inconsistent with our Lebanese reality, and I present to you these three facts:
1. First – the “Muslims” in Lebanon are divided in depth, as are the other communities, so how can those who are deeply divided amongst themselves possibly agree on a president? Let us come to terms with the fact that there is no such thing as a “Muslim entity” or “Christian entity”, and the best proof that validates this fact is the history of Lebanon, both ancient and modern, consistently interrupted by brutal wars and everlasting disputes dividing members of the same community on one hand, and dividing all different communities on another.
2. Second – There are constitutional controls that can be adopted in the mechanism of direct election which can prevent a majority from having a numerical predominance in elections, such as conducting elections over two rounds, or conducting pre-qualifications within the same community.
3. Third – Doesn’t this disapproving minority realize that the current system that leaves the power of presidential elections in the hands of the Parliament has forever kept the door wide open for regional and international powers to intervene and meddle in this election, and render this whole electoral process clay in the hands of people who are not interested in our country’s public interest, but are interested in their own selfish issues? Doesn’t this disapproving minority realize that the current system has put us all equally in the most dismal political, economic and security states and affects us all equally because the lack of security, the lack of stability, the high cost of living and the high rates of unemployment do not differentiate between religions and that is perhaps fortunate! So would you rather have the power of electing your head of state in your own hands and the hands of your equal compatriots or in the hands of corrupt foreign entities summoning their Lebanese Caligulas on orders?
The 128 members of Parliament in Lebanon have a firm grip on all powers, and this needs to change. They have the power to elect the President of the Republic, to designate the Prime Minister, to elect the Speaker of the House, to issue the laws, and to extend their own term according to their own rules that they themselves see fit! The worst is that if they disagree on any matter, no matter how nationally unimportant, they have no issue with paralyzing this country, and life does not return to our state except with foreign intervention, which is the only issue they seem to always agree on. Furthermore, this Parliament is constitutionally unrepresentative due to defects of the electoral law, a law that prevents the real representatives of the Lebanese citizens to gain access to these seats. The embodiment of this reality is reflected in our current political state whereby the Parliament overwhelmingly chimed to unconstitutionally extend their office term, and then returned to their quarrels exhausting the people and further violating their last strands of legitimacy. Oh the irony! A Parliament that is neither representative, nor effective, nor credible, is able, in spite of all this, to illegally extend its mandate due to its own ineffectiveness, yet still hold the absolute power to make all crucial decisions for the country, including the power to elect our head of state. Is this acceptable?
Enough. We must change this situation for it is no longer bearable! Let the current system attend to the desires of its citizens, those same desires that we witnessed in the polls. You, leaders, are unable to come to an agreement and your differences are endless, so free us from your selfish quarrels and let us elect our own president. What I suggest is for the presidential candidates to come together and hold televised debates and discussions at various levels to introduce to us their own political, economic and developmental policy plans and their national visions. The media will subsequently poll their viewers on our stances vis-à-vis the candidates, then, let us take the matter to the Parliament and vote in the new law.
I hope that you, dear leaders, ministers, and members of Parliament, will respond to my call, as well as the call of my compatriots, united across all ages, genders and faces on this premise, that we may all collectively revolt against this system that we inherited and which has become obsolete long ago. We want to issue a law that imposes the direct election of our president by the people, “one vote per citizen” without any religious, geographic, or regional limitation, but an election conducted on the basis of egalitarian votes distributed equally amongst all citizens inhabiting a country that shall become imbued with the understanding, stability and co-existence that was long sung by our ancestors. One person, one vote. So will you heed our call? Or will you, as usual, ignore the complaints of your people, and not bother to remedy to your ignorance from your aloof steeple?
Sara Aref El-Yafi