Joseph Hitti: Lebanon’s Presidential Elections: The Aberration of Consensual Democracy/مقالة علمية ودستورية باللغة الإنكليزية للناشط السيادي جوزيف حتي، من المفيد الإطلاع عليها لمعرفة حقيقة هرطقة ونفاق وشذوذ ما يسمى “ديموقراطية توافقية” وأخطارها  السيئة على الإنتخابات الرئاسية، وعلى كيف يستغلها بخبث بري وغيره من المعادين للديموقراطية وللحريات في لبنان للسيطرة على البلد وجره إلى الضياع والفقر والفوضى والتفكك

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مقالة علمية ودستورية باللغة الإنكليزية للناشط السيادي جوزيف حتي، من المفيد الإطلاع عليها لمعرفة حقيقة هرطقة ونفاق وشذوذ ما يسمى “ديموقراطية توافقية” وأخطارها  السيئة على الإنتخابات الرئاسية، وعلى كيف يستغلها بخبث بري وغيره من المعادين للديموقراطية وللحريات في لبنان للسيطرة على البلد وجره إلى الضياع والفقر والفوضى والتفكك. المقالة تشرح أيضاً المسلسل التدميري للنظام اللبناني الذي توّج باتفاق الطائف اللعين.

Lebanon’s Presidential Elections: The Aberration of Consensual Democracy
Joseph Hitti/October 01/2022

Lebanon is not a democracy. By themselves, elections do not make a democracy. The Europeans, for example, refer to the right-wing systems now in place in Hungary or Poland – and maybe soon in Italy – as “Electoral Autocracies”, as opposed to the “Liberal Democracies” in place in other European countries. For example, see [ https://www.euronews.com/my-europe/2022/09/15/hungary-is-no-longer-a-full-democracy-but-an-electoral-autocracy-meps-declare-in-new-repor ] about Hungary.

As defined in [ https://www.quora.com/What-does-electoral-autocracy-mean?share=1 ], an Electoral Autocracy “refers to a system of democratic government in which the constitutional machinery that is mandated to provide transparent system of governance has failed to give the required outcome”. In an electoral autocracy, people go to elections and vote for representative government. But the elected government proceeds to curtail the other attributes of a liberal democracy, such as restricting the freedom of the press and of speech, limiting the separation of powers and interfering in the judiciary which loses its independence, and using unlawful means to fight its opponents, among other things.

From its inception and up to the Taif Agreement (1989), Lebanon was a liberal democracy. Its constitution provided for all the freedoms and there were genuine elections in which rivals ran as candidates, and losers ceded authority to winners. The system was a parliamentary one but with strong presidential powers that rendered the decision-making fast and effective. The constitution itself did not mention the sectarian identities of representatives or of the President or Prime Minister of Speaker of Parliament. However, there was a non-written understanding known as the “National Pact”, a tradition adopted in 1943 that attributed the presidency to a Maronite Catholic, the Speakership of Parliament to a Shiite Muslim, and the Premiership to a Sunni Muslim, and so on and so forth down the hierarchy, granting every religious sect a proportionate representation in the workings of government and administration.

The Taif Agreement, which amended Lebanon’s constitution at the end of the 1975-1990 Lebanon War between the Palestinians (e.g., Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization, the PLO) and Lebanese grassroots militias (e.g., the Kataeb), aimed at correcting what the Muslims, most notably the Sunnis, perceived as an unfair disequilibrium favoring the Christians. In other words, the Muslims saw that an effective liberal democracy was incompatible with the National Pact. On one hand, the Pact granted the presidency to a Maronite Catholic Christian, and on the other hand the constitution granted that Christian president powers that, although normal in a liberal democracy, were seen as unfair by the Muslims. The Muslims, ever so allergic to being ruled by a non-Muslim, could not countenance that a Christian President had the power to destitute a Sunni Prime Minister and appoint another, or dissolve a Shiite-led Parliament overnight and call for elections.

By the mid-1960s, in the midst of global revolutions sweeping the world, the Muslims began complaining about the state of affairs, notwithstanding the fact that the liberal democratic system under a powerful Christian President had taken Lebanon into its golden age. Between the mid-1940s and the mid-1970s, Lebanon was prosperous, cosmopolitan, and attracted capitals and tourism.

With the advent of the PLO in 1965, which established its headquarters in Beirut in 1970 (after it was crushed in Amman by King Hussein of Jordan in the notorious Black September), the Lebanese Sunnis saw the PLO as a paramilitary instrument they could use to alter the incompatibility between the constitution and the National Pact. In effect, the Palestinians, who are Sunnis in their vast majority, became the army of the Lebanese Sunnis. Every constitutional action and decision taken by the Christian President were challenged by the Sunnis, a situation which escalated into a full-fledged war pitting on one side the Lebanese Army and security forces still under the command of the President in the initial phase of the conflict, and on the other side the PLO and its satellite Muslim (Sunni, Druze, Shiite) militias. I remember watching from the town of Hadath in 1973 the jets of the Lebanese Air Force bombing the fortified Palestinian camps of Sabra and Shatila by order of the President, an unthinkable occurrence in today’s Lebanon.

The Assad dictatorship in neighboring Syria sent its own Palestinian militias (the Saika, the Yarmuk Brigades, the Palestine Liberation Army, etc.) to rally with the PLO and the Lebanese Muslims in undermining stability in Lebanon. In turn, Christian militias were formed that backed the Army initially, but then, when the Army fractured along sectarian lines, became the direct enemies of the Syrian-Palestinian-Sunni coalition known as the National Movement. For example, a Sunni Army lieutenant by the name of Ahmad Khatib seceded and formed his own Arab Army of Lebanon that went on a rampage in the south, attacking regular units of the Lebanese Army in their barracks, and isolating a large swath of territory south of the Litani River bordering on the Israeli border from the central government in Beirut. That territory was controlled by regular Lebanese Army units led by Major Saad Haddad which maintained the State’s sovereignty in the area. As their isolation deepened, however, the Major Haddad opened the border with Israel from whom his people received much needed assistance in food, medical care, and military support. That was the genesis of what later became the Israeli-occupied “border strip” which Hezbollah falsely claims to have liberated. The residents of the Border Strip, Christians, and Muslims alike, were essentially defenders of Lebanon’s sovereignty against the assault on the State by the Palestinians and their Lebanese Sunni manipulators.

The Taif Agreement sealed the defeat of Lebanon’s Christians who tried to keep Lebanon as a liberal democracy with standard operating rules of governance. In the Taif Agreement, Lebanon’s liberal democracy became an “electoral autocracy” which the Lebanese proudly brag about as a “consensual democracy”, i.e., a fallacy or a parody of a democracy. Not only did the Taif Agreement enshrine the National Pact into the constitution – it is now written that the President be a Maronite, the Speaker of Parliament a Shiite, and the Prime Minister a Sunni – it also redistributed the formerly concentrated presidential powers among the three top offices. In other words, what used to be a mono-cephalic presidential system became a tri-cephalic monster where decisions could never be made, as has been the situation since the Syrian army was evicted in 2005. In fact, prior to 2005, the only reason the system appeared to work was that all decisions were dictated from Damascus via the Syrian occupation of the country.

The aberration of “consensual democracy”, a Lebanese nomenclature for what amounts to an “electoral autocracy”, consists in holding elections, but then regardless of the outcome of the elections, the bosses of the sects sit down together, often in dark rooms and behind closed doors, and make decisions as they see fit. Which means that elections are really a farce.

A perfect example of this aberration is currently on display. The Christian President is elected by Parliament, not by universal suffrage, which makes the choice of a President even more removed from anything democratic. Yesterday (Thursday Sept. 29), Parliament met and voted, without any candidate achieving a majority. But then, instead of moving automatically to a second vote with a lesser majoritarian requirement (from two-thirds to a simple 51%) as required by the constitution, the Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri (head of the Shiite Amal militia, and a dinosaur autocrat occupying the Speakership since 1992) adjourned the session and declared that he will call Parliament for a second session later, “when a consensus is reached about the identity of the president”.

In other words, autocrat Berri doesn’t want a real election where two or more candidates compete. He wants his peers, in their vast majority sectarian bosses, or vassals of foreign countries, or former militia warlords, or their recently elected progeny, to make a deal over one candidate behind closed doors, then tell him they have a candidate, at which time he will convene Parliament to rubber-stamp the lucky bastard. What happens behind those closed doors leading to a single candidate? Phone calls to Tehran, or Riyadh, or Paris, or Washington, directly or via their local ambassadors, bartering favors and deals, bribes by the millions of dollars, etc.

For now, the two sides of the political divide are just about equally represented in Parliament, but neither has the majority: The pro-Iran/Syria side (Hezbollah, Amal, Aoun and Bassil’s Christian FPM, etc. known as March-8), and the pro-Saudi/US side (Lebanese Forces, Kataeb, etc., known as March-14). But there is a group of 12 MPs who breached the traditional lineups at the elections last May. They are known as the “Reformers” or “Independents” who refuse to play by the old rules and do not want to be cast into either of the two camps. They want a candidate who is not affiliated with the traditionalists of either side. They are generally closer in outlook with the March-14 camp but refuse to rally under its umbrella. Yet, the Reformers are not kingmakers whose vote can sway the outcome in favor of March-8. The Reformers’ vote can either favor the March-14 group (if the two sides can agree on one candidate), or a candidate from outside the two camps, but never a March-8 candidate. And this is precisely what happened during the first session. March-14 had a candidate (Michel Mouawad), the Reformers had a candidate (Selim Edde), while the other side dropped a blank vote and is suspected of wanting to scuttle the elections and leave a vacuum in the presidency.

The crux of the matter is that the Lebanese electorate unfortunately remains very conservative and voted for a tiny bit of reform, not enough for reform to materialize. Since the country needs to shake off the old guard of corruption and backroom deals of both traditional camps, the Reformers are, on principle, correct in holding the independent line. But in practice, they don’t have the critical mass to control the vote, and therefore they must join with the March-14 in these elections for the simple objective of defeating the pro-Iran/Syria camp. The country will not survive another six years of a Aoun-like presidency under constant threat by the illegal weapons of Hezbollah. Sadly, real reform will have to wait for the next parliamentary elections. Until then, the Reformers can prove to the Lebanese people that they are able to make short-term coalitions without sacrificing their principles and long-term objectives.