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Lebanon and the Challenge of Extending Parliament's Term!

Lebanon and the Challenge of Extending Parliament's Term!

Thursday, 3 December, 2020 - 12:30

To a certain extent, it is difficult to comprehensively portray the scale of Lebanon’s various collapses on the financial, economic and social levels, as well as their repercussions on the citizens’ living conditions, even on their ability to carry on. The Lebanese have become the most depressed of the world’s peoples. The poverty rate, due to systematic plunder, has risen to over 50& and continues to grow at a pace that the country has not witnessed since Greater Lebanon was declared 100 years ago. Independent researchers predict a famine similar to the one that struck Mount Lebanon during the 1st World War and wiped out half of its population!

Today, with the state hijacked by corruption and arms, the political cabal that has been running the country for three decades rotting away, and after it has become glaringly apparent that it is unable to undertake any initiative or step to diminish the pace of the collapse or the disintegration of the state’s authority, the stifling faces of the crisis have become apparent for all to see. It manifests in the dangerous depletion of human capital as the brain drain grows, especially among the youths before whom all doors are shut, while the crisis deepens further as skilled workers begin to emigrate!

It's a forced migration, not made any more palatable by any party’s nauseating rhetoric about the Lebanese desire to “spread,” the term Lebanese diplomacy uses to refer to immigrants! Anyone capable of obtaining a visa jumps at the opportunity to escape the catastrophe created by the coalition formed between the militia of money and that of arms, which squeezed the country dry and prevented the establishment of a state, replacing it with institutions that were cut up into slices and divided according to quotas reserved for this or that sectarian group… Referring to one as a rich ministry, the second as an independent enterprise and the third a fund or a council... This coalition relied on its subordination to the foreign factions which provides it with protection!

This political clique maintains its control over the country despite the two million Lebanese taking to public squares. It continues to flex its muscle, relying on the encroachment of the Hezbollah statelet, which has become the corrupt sectarian-quota-based spoil-sharing regime’s patron and protector. Citizens are denied more and more of their rights as the regime turns a blind eye to the issues that brought the majority of the Lebanese together under the banner of the October Revolution.

With that, the revolutionaries generally tended to consider the fall of Hariri’s government a payment of some of the tab they are owed, which still required the toppling of parliament from which popular legitimacy had been withdrawn. This demand became the central issue, and parliament was thus prevented from convening. The protests were held at its entrances amid excessive and arbitrary use of force by the ‘Parliamentary Militia’ (aka Parliamentary Guard) that does not fall within any of the country’s military or security institutional bodies’ hierarchies! Its crimes cost dozens of revolutionaries their eyes!

After the deadly August 4 port blast which resulted in a genocide and the obliteration of entire neighborhoods in the capital, the demand for the toppling of parliament, the body responsible for legalizing plunder and impoverishment projects, was reinvigorated. Eight, mostly independent, deputies resigned, while intersecting interests, and perhaps promises, succeeded in preventing further resignations, Hassan Nasrallah’s jubilation was apparent as he discussed the failure of calls for deputies’ resignation, for which he blamed foreign incitement, as usual. As is well known, these deputies won their seats in an election in which the law obliged voters to give their preferential vote to a candidate from their sect, a clear violation of the constitution that misrepresented voters’ choices. At the time, the Iranian regime praised the “achievement” because it had secured Hezbollah an absolute majority!

Per the constitution, Lebanon’s political system is parliamentary, meaning that the parliament is the real representative body, and it is through elections that it derives its legitimacy as a body representing the will of the people, voicing their concerns and demands and granting governments confidence or withholding it in their name. This is in theory... But a glance at their composition and performance - all the parliaments that have been elected since 1992 - shows that the reality is quite different and that practice totally contradicts theory.

This is why protesters focused on it, and the area surrounding it in central Beirut was fortified with metal barriers barbed wires and walls made of reinforced concrete. It became protected from the people, direct contact was no longer possible, and safe passageways were constructed for the deputies… The people’s concerns thereby could not find their way to the parliament, which has not bothered to hold a session to discuss any aspect of the successive collapses; nor was it compelled to discuss the largest chemical explosion known to man that hit the capital or form a committee to investigate what happened and why it happened. How could such deadly material be stored there all these years? What about the genocide, the 7,000 persons who were injured and the 300,000 who were displaced?!

Lebanon’s parliament is trying to demonstrate that it is an institution that studies and develops projects and writes laws and legislation. From the outside, observers may think that it's playing its legislative role as well as can be. But reality attests to the exact opposite. The most prominent “achievements” are laws constrained by the interests of the main parties, the regime’s pillars. French President Macron said that about 10 people control the entire political system; in other words, laws legalizing corruption!

The last example was presented during the previous parliamentary session, which was nominally prompted by the need for parliament to join the government’s coarse regarding the “forensic audit” after the failure of the investigation into the Central Bank’s finances and Alvarez and Marsal’s withdrawal from its agreement to pursue this audit. Here, it should be noted that major international newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal and Le Monde talked about the Central Bank’s repudiation of an external audit and that its position is supported by governmental and political entities that encompass almost all the parties.

The parliament, in turn, announced that the audit would encompass all ministries and institutions. However, instead of passing legislation that amends the laws currently in place, it issued sweeping decisions that have no legal value, do not nullify the banking secrecy law and have no bearing on the Money and Credit Credit Code. Everyone rejoiced at this farce that covers up corruption and protects perpetrators! For the forensic audit would have inevitably illustrated the process by which billions were embezzled through financial engineering, deposits were smuggled abroad, Hezbollah evaded sanctions, and other similar illicit actions were conducted.

The parliament does not give any importance to examining the region’s transformations and internal collapses. Instead, discussing the electoral law is given primacy. Proposals that contradict the constitution, prevaricated clashes and threats of schemes to impose numerical hegemony, all are contrived excuses to disagree, building on disputes’ persistence to extend parliament’s term in the future, to arrive at a stage in which parliament extending its term becomes tenable. This is the scenario, and the precedents are countless, the most recent of which is parliament’s arbitrary 5-year extension of its term in 2009!

The ruling cabal is gripped with anxiety as it fumbles, incapable of forming a government. The country is split between the disadvantaged majority and the ruling cabal that handed Hezbollah the authority to make decisions with the 2016 deal. The entire political class is suspect, internally and externally, the sword of American sanctions is swinging. There is no alternative to a transitional phase led by a wholly independent government that gives the Lebanese a space to breathe. The risk of an extension to parliament’s term is thus akin to a Lebanese “Loya jirga”! This message was hammered in by the student elections, which declared that the October Revolution is not a transient event!

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