Demokratiska val i Libanon? - ECOSY - Young European Socialists - Newsletter July 2005

Lebanese elections –can the past few months teach us something?

The national elections in Lebanon are now over and the past six months in the country will go to history as filled with turning points, negotiations, elections and small steps towards national independence and democracy. The anti-Syrian opposition in Lebanon has won an indisputable victory in the first election in 30 years without Syrian troops located in the country. Nevertheless has the Syrian issue played an important role in the four election rounds that have been carried out during May and June in different parts of the country.

Since former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri was murdered by a car bomb in Beirut, in mid February have many things happened fast and when it comes to contemporary Lebanon are there plenty of things to mention. One of them is the fact that the current Lebanese development has been stated by some as a model of change for other countries to follow the example of. Perhaps it could be looked upon as that, but regardless of this are there some pending points that are needed to be discussed and observed in order to improve not only the Lebanese political situation but also the European and global ones.

External pressure – the US and the EU
Soon after the killing of ex Prime Minister Hariri was pressure put on Syria from the international society in general and from the US in particular, to remove all its troops and security forces from Lebanese territory. This was fulfilled – at least as it seemed – before the Lebanese elections.

This showed what outside pressure can lead to. It was of course positive that Syrian troops left Lebanon and this was also necessary to do to enable a further democratisation of the country. Although is this fast and smoothly implemented withdrawal also slightly frightening since it shows perfectly well how powerful the US administration is.

When US have decided something they really can, and will, go through with it. It is no coincidence that the Syrians have withdrawn from Lebanon but the Israelis are still active occupying Palestinian territories despite all UN resolutions about ending the Israeli occupation. Let us not forget the great contribution of US support to the Lebanese opposition, but let us also use this example of US action to push US to treat all UN resolutions and countries equally.

The processes of action in Lebanon did also, in one way or another, reflect the global power relations. While the US engaged, took a clear stand and tried to affect the development in Lebanon was the EU almost invisible, occupied with internal work. Of course did EU pass some statements and pay some attention to what was happening in its neighbouring country, but the effects of this cannot be put in relation to the consequences of US statements and actions. There are several valid reasons of EU being occupied with other things, naturally, with the Constitutional Treaty ratification process as the main one, but nevertheless does it give a glimpse of who is affecting the world agenda and who is not.

Democratic – and electoral – deficits
For us young European socialists and social democrats is democracy so much more than elections. It’s about social democracy, economic democracy and cultural democracy – but it is also about political democracy of which elections to democratic institutions is an important part. The Lebanese elections raised many questions regarding this but one should be of special concern: The low turnout. In the first election round on May 29:th was the turnout only 28 percent and in the second round the 5:th of June 45 percent.

If elections are used as a tool for the people to decide upon who is to represent their ideas, interests and opinions, the turnout must be much higher. Nobody can claim the representatives elected in these rounds to be truly representative of the people. The newly elected parliament, as well as the government, must efficiently fight apathy and make sure that the number of abstainers next election will be decreased.

Another question of concern is the big influence of different tribal leaders. Much of Lebanese politics are still fragmentised between different tribes and sects as a result of the settlements that were reached after the last war. This complicates the possibilities for Lebanese individuals to get a good communication with their representatives. It also disables the election process when many candidates don’t run in the elections due to agreements behind the scene ending with only one candidate running in many one-person-constituencies.

Campaign money might also be seen as something that has played an important role in this election and therefore has created a democratic deficit. In the first election round that was set on the 29:th of May, in the capital Beirut, did Hariri’s election alliance win a great victory. The son of late Rafiq Hariri, Saad Hariri, lead the alliance that won a large majority of the 19 seats to the parliament that was competed in this round. Is it a coincidence that Hariri is one of the richest families in Lebanon, and actually in the whole world, and therefore had a lot of money to put into the campaign work and preparations?

In the second election round that was held on the 5:th of May in southern Lebanon, concerning 23 seats in the national parliament, did the Shiite Muslim Coalition, that among others included Hizbollah, reach a crushing victory. This can also be seen as something creating democratic concerns since one for sure can claim that Hizbollah is an anti-democratic organisation that, among other things, oppose equal and true political participation from half of the society; that is the women.

Happy example thanks to the youth
Nevertheless is Lebanon a great example of how people can decide over the path of their country. Thanks to, among other things, the endless demonstrations and protests on the Martyr Square in downtown Beirut did the world notice what was going on. Especially the Lebanese Youth have played a crucial role in mobilising people and making the democratic fire go from person to person, from town to town, without being put out. Unfortunately has the role, and the right, of the youth not been taken into enough seriously account by the political players now dealing with the future of Lebanon. Without learning their lesson from the past are the older generations once more up to decide upon the future without enough youth participation.

The past six months have been shivering, trembling and very important. Lets hope that the decision makers that have been brought to take decisions as a result of this trembling six months, will seize the opportunity to change things for real.

Laila Naraghi
Vice president ECOSY

Do you want to read more about Lebanon? Read the report from IUSY/ECOSY Study visit April 2005 (that was lead by ECOSY president Giacomo Filibeck and IUSY secretary general Enzo Amendola, where ECOSY vice presidents Laura Robles Castro and Laila Naraghi participated among others). The report was in the ECOSY Newsletter May 2005. Read also the resolution about Lebanon from last ECOSY Bureau Meeting in Luxembourg.

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