Draft Electoral Law A Fair Punishment

Article Summary
Despite seeking to stabilize Lebanon, the Orthodox electoral draft law will serve to only undermine the system that proposes it by drawing attention to sectarian divisions in the country, writes Jihad al-Zein.

Why is the Orthodox draft law a necessary evil, given the nature of the Lebanese sectarian system or more precisely, why is it a fair crime, as it were, against the criminal?

One of the most ridiculous arguments used by the opponents of the Orthodox parliamentary election draft law — regarding the article limiting citizens’ electoral votes to candidates of their own confession — consists of saying that this draft law turns parliament into a parliament of confessions.

This argument is ridiculous, because it suggests that both the current and previous parliaments, particularly after the Taif Accords, were not confessional parliaments. This is particularly true with the last three elected parliaments, as confessional parties have been clearly labeled as Sunni, Shiite and Druze. This applies more precisely to the Sunnis and Shiites — with the Future Movement and the Amal-Hezbollah alliance turning into two blocs that oppose one another in the street, using all of their energy for sectarian provocation. During the last parliament, large confessional blocs — Sunni, Shiite and Druze — were formed, in addition to the Free Patriotic Movement’s (FPM) bloc, which reaped as many Christian seats as it could, particularly for the Maronites. However, the FPM’s bloc didn't reach the point of being the sole and semi-absolute representative of the Maronites — as the Sunni, Shiite and Druze blocs had done — because the diversity among Lebanon’s Christians, whether voluntary and obligatory, preserved the bloc’s diversity.

This diversity has preserved the Christians’ political dynamic in parties, churches, families, the bourgeoisie, youth movements, among intellectuals, and their rural, urban, and regional affiliates. The Sunnis, Shiites and Druze, however, each have a single primary party representing their respective sect, and thus the success of any of these parties at all levels has eliminated the possibility of a diverse political dynamic.

Thus, the Orthodox draft law comes at a moment when sectarian polarization among the Sunnis, Shiites and Druze is at its highest level in the history of Lebanon. The outcomes of the 1975-2000 civil war [Editor’s note: Lebanon’s civil war ended in 1990, but Israel occupied southern Lebanon until 2000.] prevented the main Christian parties — the Kataeb Party and then the Lebanese Forces Party — from dominating the Maronites and Christians.

In this sense, the non-national multi-confessional structure in the Lebanese sectarian system had led to the inequality of Muslims in the past, and the inequality of Christians now within the sectarian system, which is today dominated by the Sunni and Shiite sects. With the proposed law, this structure will produce a type of justice that will distort the sense of nationalism.

The Orthodox draft law is a punishment by the two confessions to the two sects in the way that it reveals what we already know, in an effort to enable those who once dominated the regime to be freed from the new dominators.

The sectarian regime undermines itself through the Orthodox draft law. In its quest for satisfaction and stability, the sectarian system goes from the impossibility of a less just to the impossibility of a more just system from the perspective of the logic on which the system was founded, at a time that “Lebanonization” is expanding in the Fertile Crescent, from Iraq to Syria. This quest is impossible to achieve, because in all its forms the confessional system is one of ongoing civil war, even though it is also a system of sectarian collective freedoms and individual ambiguous freedoms.

In contrast, with the Orthodox draft law, it seems that after Iraq was “Lebanonized, it is time for Lebanon to be “ Iraqized,” given Syria’s upheaval.

Post-2003, Iraq has given the idea of federalism a certain legitimacy that the Arab political culture has missed in both federal Sudan and the gloomy autonomous Kurdish rule in Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s reign. Such legitimacy could not be granted during the private meeting of Maronite leaders in Saydet El Bir in 1977 that addressed the issue of “political pluralism”. Despite the sectarian structure of the Iraqi political system, the “National Federation” was implemented. The “Sectarian Federation” did not gain any legitimacy within the Arab political culture, notably Iraq. Although sectarian divisions between Sunnis and Shiites are at their peak between, the latter have ignored calls to endorse a “Sectarian Federation.”

Lebanon is a subtle federation, and the Orthodox proposal exposes this through the text of law. It highlights the federal nature of the sectarian system and moves it forcibly towards a certain kind of sectarian equality, after a long era of Muslim sectarian dominance that came as a response to a Christian constitutive prevalence.

Seeking equality within a sectarian system, characterized with a separatist dynamic, is a delusional act. Yet, the only hope of establishing a secular future is for this system to punish itself until the end.

Nowadays, the equation goes as follows: extreme sectarianism is punishing or threatening extreme doctrinism.

Such an equation is only “fair” in the sense that the “criminal” has become the “victim”!

Found in: confessionalism

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