On February 15th 2014, I ran a poll on my website asking my readers to vote for their preferred Presidential candidate. “We, the people, should be the ones voting for our President, not the Parliament”, I said. Hundreds concordantly cast their votes and rendered the following results.
Ziyad Baroud won by a large margin with over 3.2 times the votes of his closest competitor Michel Aoun. We can always speculate on how representative my sample is, however, it is interesting to point out that my poll rendered similar results to LBCI’s poll as we both saw Ziyad Baroud win by a large margin (see graph below). Although LBCI refuses to release the number of their participating voters (for no understandable reason), I was told by an insider that they got an average of 250,000 clicks per week putting the number well over 1.8 million visits since they started their poll two months ago. I will be conservative and say that 2% of those visitors actually participated in the poll, that’s 30,000 participants, which would be considered a terrific turnout. Thus, our results are substantial enough to illustrate popular opinion: Both our polls put Ziyad Baroud in the lead by far, yet it is interesting that his name is not even being “discussed” by “the political class.” This is not to make a case for Ziyad Baroud, this is to make a case for popular opinion. Why isn’t the popular choice being taken into consideration? BECAUSE THE PEOPLE DON’T MATTER TO THEM.
Well, we will change that.
“Who did voters nominate under “Other”?”
In my poll, following Ziyad Baroud, the second highest number of votes were gathered under “Other”, with 16% of the votes, where people preferred a candidate that wasn’t in the list that I suggested. Here are the most common names that were mentioned:
- Sara El-Yafi (in the lead actually. Thank you for that.)
- Sami Gemayel; current MP
- Carlos Ghosn; influential international businessman and CEO of Renault-Nissan
- Gino Raidy; blogger at Gino’s blog
- Ghassan Salamé; professor of Political Science and former Minister of Culture
- Igor the Donkey; companion of Winnie the Pooh
- Papa Noël; i.e. Santa Claus, an overweight seasonal bigot who only gives gifts to good Christian children
I would like to point out that Igor the Donkey and Papa Noël each gathered more votes than Amine Gemayel.
“Would you like to elect your President directly?”
99.99% of the participants answered “yes” to this question, which is quite significant. On the other hand, amongst the back-breaking negatives, I discovered an item called “the Muslims”, a term used by those who objected to my idea of direct popular elections because they fear that “the Muslims”, and in particular “the Shiites”, would stifle their non-Muslim voices in popular elections. No matter how unfortunate these terminologies are, it is very necessary to address that faction of people crippled by sectarian fear and present them with reassurances by showing them that there are legal solutions to their worries. Please read on.
What do we say to those who oppose this idea because they fear the “Muslim voters” and believe that “Christian voices” will get lost in a “Shiite storm”?
1. This is a worry that will definitely be played on by the sectarian leaders, so you need to be armed with knowledge. There are legal solutions to this worry that prevent minority voices from getting lost in a majoritarian influence. There exists a gradual electoral process that protects minority voices, which is based on candidate qualifications over two rounds, i.e. “تأهيل على دورتين”. The first round of elections only calls for the participation of the “Christian voters” whereby only the “Christians” go to the polls and elect a shortlist of, say, three or four candidates that they “approve” of. This preliminary election would be known as “the primaries.” After that shortlist has been elected, those three or four candidates (who were approved by the Christian voters) will then qualify for the second and final round of elections, which is where every Lebanese citizen goes to the polls and votes in the national presidential elections. At that point, in the second round, we employ the “One-person-one-vote” system with egalitarian votes distributed across genders, confessions and geographies. The candidate who gathers the highest number of national votes becomes our Lebanese President. That is not to say that this method is the only way, but it is to say that there are ways to appease minority concerns. However, I would like to place an important disclaimer: If this electoral process of “minority candidate qualification” gets adopted, and the “Christians” get favored in the primary voting process, then we must open up the ballots for candidates from other religions to run for president too… because “the Christians” would be appeased with having given their primary exclusive blessing to the non-Christian candidates of their choice. Our President no longer needs to be of the Maronite faith.
2. Now. Excuse me. But what the hell is “the Muslims”? And what the hell is “the Christians”? They sound like very bad bands. Do people truly believe that there is such a thing called “the Muslims” with a unified voice? And do these people really believe that by placing the nomination of the president in the hands of the current corrupt politicians and their paralyzing foreign power counterparts as we are doing today, their president is more representative to them than if voted in by “the Muslims”? Do they really prefer crooks and their foreign allies over their own countrymen and countrywomen? How heartbreaking. If you still refer to the Lebanese people as “Muslims” and “Christians” and “Druze”, you are contributing to the paralysis of this nation and you need to reshuffle your understanding of outdated geopolitics. We the Lebanese are so much more than our assigned religions, and if the PEOPLE don’t believe that, who will? Let us get this through our skulls already. We are not “Muslims” and “Christians” and “Druze”, we are thinkers, and entrepreneurs, and educators, and social shakers, and lovers, and parents, and sons and daughters of men and women who want nothing more from their lives than to give themselves and their children a present and a future of stability and safety… and stability and safety are devoid of religious sectarianism, because they are imbued with secular liberty and equality. خلصنا.
Can we change the system today?
Today is the perfect time. We have so much to object to: The Members of Parliament are illegal; the current government was given the confidence of an illegal parliament, so was the Constitutional Council. Illegal. And in this specific case, the current parliament is particularly illegitimate because it unconstitutionally extended its term for paradoxically failing to vote in an electoral law. How ironic. It is unrepresentative, ineffective, illegitimate and it can extend its own term because of its own ineffectiveness!
It is now that the people must demand true representation. The powers of the Parliament should be diluted towards the people. This is not a revolution against the Parliament; in fact, some members of the Parliament would certainly be on our side. This is a revolution against the system that is keeping our country hostage to underdevelopment, instability, poverty and foreign intervention. Let us act.
There is compelling evidence in the intellectual history of research on what electing their head of state does to the psyche of the people. It empowers them, it involves them and it responsibilizes them. This is the intuitive conception of how a democracy works. You pick your leaders, all of them, you pick the policies that govern you, you raise the stakes through democracy, and you hold your leaders accountable for their promises; promises that they initially engaged in to win your blessing, not some foreign power. It should be a tough race. Nominees have to campaign for your votes. They have to win your hearts and minds because they work for you. Leaving the nomination of our head of state in the hands of 128 politicians perpetuating the sectarian system, incapacitated most of the time, elected on sectarian basis with a legislated preemptive disposal of occupying “religious seats” and perpetuating their own re-election by controlling and manipulating the election law, is far from being a compelling call for national development, or for the advancement of social cohesion that we so desperately need as a nation. The power needs to be given to the people.
I’m on board. How do we do it?
I am in process of preparing a petition. I am teaming up with influential policymakers and lawyers who will draft the constitutional amendments needed to change the system. This will be backed by key influential public figures whose names will be disclosed when we’ll be ready to go. When the petition is ready, you will kindly be asked to sign it with your full name and full support, and a heart full of hope. Estimated time? August. Please make sure you subscribe to this website, follow me on Twitter or on Facebook to stay up to date.
I ask you to give me your courage, your hope and your resilience. Stay tuned.