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
I vote you for president.
Ingenious idea. If this is put in place, it would make the Lebanese voting system more democratic than what we have here in the UK. Its about time we work towards a Paris of the Middle East instead of being known as yet another ME conflict news headline. Shared.
Dear Sara, I am living in Egypt and witnessed 2 revolutions by the people of Egypt to topple two presidents that were not fit to run the country. We Lebanese, watch a Parliament renew for itself, then trying to meet for more than a month to elect a President…the disappointing matter here is us Lebanese people watching and doing nothing, just because everyone belongs to a clan. We should learn from those Egyptians, I was there in Tahrir Square during both revolutions, witnessing history…I was so jealous and so sad! We need a miracle or down to Martyr Square…
I think electing the Lebanese President by popular vote is a bad idea. The less informed/educated is the population, the more it is likely for a popular vote to elect a head of state based on criteria that are not necessarily characteristics of good leaders. This applies to the US (electoral vote system) as well as to Lebanon and others. The current problem in Lebanon, where governmental duties are put on hold, has to do with the definition of quorum. Quorum requirements have to be modified when legislatures (or cabinet members in the case of putting on hold cabinet meetings due to lack of quorum) do not show up to perform the duties for which they were elected or assigned. This is my general intuition… there should be some comparative research analyzing this issue (models for electing head of states and their likelihood of producing outstanding leaders) out there!
Models for electing head of states (without comparing their effectiveness and representation)
On quorums http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quorum
عزيزتي ساره لقد اعجبني مقالك الجريء الذي تناول موضوع انتخاب ريئس الجمهورية على الطريقة الاميركية ، ومن الجيد الخوض في تجربة اعلامية ديموقراطية والحصول على مؤيدين يسعون الى تغيير الواقع الذي نعيشه من عهد الاستقلال، وهذا الواقع فرضته الظروف السياسية والاجتماعية ومكونات المجتمع اللبناني منذ حصول لبنان على استقلاله.
اعلم ان رؤيتك للاوضاع التي نعيشها دفعتك للخوض والبحث عن مخرج قد يؤدي الى حل للازمات التي تعصف عند كل استحقاق رئاسي، واعلم ان العديد من اللبنانيين ومنهم انا يحلمون برؤية لبنان ينعم بالاسقرار والتطور،لكن للوصول الى تلك المرحلة يجب معالجة الخلل الاساسي وهي “الطائفية السياسية”.
ان الانتخابات المباشرة للرئيس الجمهورية يجب ان يسبقها تعديل للنظام السياسي الحالي اي النظام البرلماني وتحويله الى نظام رئاسي وهنا تقع الكارثة، حيث ان صلاحيات رئيس الجمهورية يجب ان تعدّل دستورياً لصالحه، الامر الذي قد لا يصب في مصلحة صلاحيات رئيس الوزراء “اي المسلمين” المعدلة دستورياً بموجب اتفاق الطائف، والامر الاخر وفي ظل النظام السياسي الحالي هو خوف الزعامات المسيحية من ترك المسلمين خلافاتهم المعقدة جانباً، وتوافقهم على رئيس مسيحي “ضمن تسوية”، لا يمثل اراء وتطالعات الطائفة المسيحية، وهنا تقع الكارثة الاخرى.
والمعروف ان لبنان هو البلد الوحيد في العالم الذي يتبع التوافقية الطائفية او”نظام التسويات”، وقد ورد في مقدمة الدستور اللبناني المعدل سنة 1990 اي منذ24 سنة الجملة الوحيدة في كل الدستور التي تقول ” يجب العمل على “الغاء الطائفية الساسية ،و يمكن ان كل نوابنا فهموها غلط او يمكن انهم لم يقراءوها حتى .
على كل حال ان مقالك الذي يدعو الى الدفع في اعادة الاعتبار الى المواطن اللبناني كفرد في المجتمع لا كعدد في طائفته، هو من الامور الايجابية الذي يجب التركيز عليها، مع انه يوجد فيه عدم “الترابط المنطقي”، الا انه يتسم بالجراءة والشفافية وحصوصاً فيما يتعلق بمجلسنا النيابي الكريم!!!
وانشالله عطول منشوف مقالات حلوة منك ساره
We need to change our Parliament, and the speaker of the house.
There are three reasons why this lineup does not change.
1.The majority of Lebanese in Lebanon have a hard time surviving and finding jobs, therefore heavily depend on their “wastas” for crumbs and security. And would gladly vote for their respective MP for a mere 100$ or to keep their jobs.
2.The rest of the Lebanese (mostly educated) have left the country. Leaving the Govt to the dogs.
3. The rest of us are too lazy.
I believe there is a solution to this country, but would require one person to care. All he would have to do is for example assign the Lebanese University Professors into researching Electricity, i have heard it is an old invention. And then maybe we could guarantee our Engineers to work in those plants. We do not need other countries for this. and then move on to water and so on. If they spent 1% of the time working then they do talking on tv then maybe by 5 years we could have 24 hour electricity.
Our problem is a personal/national one, we depend too much on other people and then complain that they interfere. Although there is interference, It is only our fault for depending on them in the first place.
No matter who you are alliance is, if you have integrity and dignity and don’t sell out you will be respected and i believe will succeed 🙂
I was just forwarded your article in Annahar. I really like it, bravo!
Thank you for voicing us out so eloquently in Arabic…
Sara El-Yafi you make me so proud of you! Congratulations on your first article in an official Arabic newspaper!
و الله جبتها
البنت هاي مميزة و كتكوته
أنا فخورة فيك يا سارة
Bravo Sara El-Yafi! Very well said!
What’s the point of having direct suffrage for the president if his/her role is ceremonial? Or are we also considering greatly empowering said president and curtailing the role of prime minister?
It is a good step, and that the way it should be. But, would you agree that anyone can participate to run for office regardless of their religion, so when someone like Sayd Hassan wins the election, are you going to write another article criticizing the new system and we should go back to al tayef Concession?
Very, very valid question Goloso. The strength of democracy is that it empowers the people, the beauty of democracy is that it responsibilizes people, the perils of democracy is that it may give a weighing stake to the uninformed, fickle, and prejudiced person. But the advancement of a nation is paved with trials, and one cannot avoid “bad scenarios” by confiscating the people’s liberty of choice. If the people choose Sayed Hassan, and the elections are not rigged, and the process was imbued with integrity, then so be it. Sayed Hasan will be our President. But in the way our pluralistic society is devised, I doubt that any person of extreme political views will ever be voted in by popular vote to occupy the first position of the country. And that is the beauty of our country.
Excellent Sara …u summed it up really well there…..The biggest challenge in what the ppl want, is not allowing “outsiders” meddle with Leb politics..those outsiders are Al Saud, Iran, and Zionists (they too do nose browsing via their guys in the Leb Parliament)…..As u stated, the first step towards accomplishing this feat (lebanese PEOPLE directly choosing their president at the polls) starts when the politicians shift their loyalties and dedication to the Leb people rather than to the Outsiders
Exactly Zeid. When you devise the electoral voting in an egalitarian and just way across all confessions, geographies, statuses and political affiliations, you empower the people. Humans need to feel secure, and humans feel secure when they know their freedoms can not be hijacked. In a country of battling minorities constantly fearing one another, relying on their biased and corrupt political leadership who change their political alliances as often as a teenagers change their facebook statuses, the people feel no security, because their freedoms have been sold to the fickle minds of their failed leadership. Thus, confessionalism is always on the rise. We can change that by handing the people their own liberty. Let us empower the people. Let the people decide, and I am sure that only wonders can happen then, perhaps with trials and errors, but that is the story of all advancing societies. People must choose. Thanks a lot for commenting dear Zeid.
Thank you so much for the kind support my friends. The English translation can now be found above.
Congrats, great read 🙂 !
My favorite part is the third paragraph. So true!
Can’t wait to read the English version
Je pourrais proposer par exemple Georges Corm à la présidence de la république et Charbel Nahas à la tête du gouvernement. Que les autres confessions s’arrangent pour proposer des personnes valables et intègres!
Très bon article. Mais il est également temps de penser “laïc”. Le partage des fonctions, des bénéfices, etc. entre confessions empêchera toujours notre pays d’évoluer.
Ghada, tu as complètement raison, il est effectivement grand temps de penser “laïc”, tout en pensant “changement.” Le Liban ne fait que gaspiller le talent de ses citoyens en limitant leur portée et leur ambitions patriotiques à cause du recul confessionnel enraciné dans le système. On se sent tellement impuissant face à ce système qui ne fait que rejeter et exiler le talent Libanais. Mais je pense que même dans le climat confessionnel d’aujourd’hui, et dans l’esprit de ce que Wassek a dit, donner le pouvoir du suffrage au peuple est un pas vers une laicisation éventuelle du pays. La liberté de choix conduit à la sécurité. Dans un pays de minorités éclectiques où tous se sentent craintifs des “autres”, je pense qu’une démocratie directe de “one person one vote” ne peut qu’engendrer des résultats positifs; en responsabilisant et renforçant le role du citoyen Libanais, le peuple se solidarisera dans sa liberté de pensée.
Reste à trouver comment. La vacuité du système devrait aider. Les députés sont illégaux; le gouvernement a eu la confiance d’un parlement illégal; Le conseil constitutionnel idem. C’est maintenant que le peuple doit se soulever et réclamer! Mais le peuple est trop imprégné de confessionnalisme et aujourd’hui, les “clergés” (chrétien et musulman) dominent
Ma chère Sara, contrairement à ce que pense quelques uns, un président de la république élu par le peuple a autrement plus d’autorité qu’un président élu par des combines de députés sous tutelle. Je me souviens de la situation où se trouvait le pdt Lahoud quand Jacques Chirac venait au Liban, rendait visite à Hariri, premier ministre de l’époque et à Berri président de la chambre des députés. Il ne daignait même pas se rendre chez le pdt de la république. Je ne veux pas prendre position sur le fond, mais personnellement j’avais honte qu’on puisse traiter un chef d’état de la sorte. Les chrétiens seraient les
…les chrétiens du Liban seraient beaucoup plus respectés et tous les libanais seraient gagnants… Je suis d’accord à 200% avec toi ma chére Sara
Très bonne initiative, peut-être la plus accessible pour rendre au peuple une partie du pouvoir séquestré par nos dirigeants mafieux et complices. D’autres initiatives devront suivre…
Congratulations Sara! Looking forward to reading in English xx
So proud of you Sarourti! I want You to be our president, love you
Proud of you. Look forward to having you read it to me again!
Bravo Sara you make us proud!
Hey, do you have the link to the Arabic article?
Brooke, yes, the link is in the description above. But in any case here it is again, http://tinyurl.com/p3ze2um
Extremely proud of u…
So proud of u Sara El-Yafi God bless u !!!
Bravo Sara. Very good article. Logical and extremely well articulated.
This is great Sara!!! I’m on board
I am on board
Good job Sara . We are proud of you . And we agree with you .