Elec­toral law

How to have a fair elec­tion

Executive Magazine - - Front Page -

The first im­pulse in re­act­ing to a pro­po­nent of the “me first” ide­ol­ogy is to re­spond in kind. Amer­ica first prac­ti­cally screams for a re­ac­tionary re­sponse that sim­ply says, No, my coun­try first. Not Amer­ica first, but Le­banon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Jor­dan and so on. Self-af­fir­ma­tion has its ap­peal. It also has logic. Let’s face it: Ori­ent­ing eco­nomic poli­cies to­ward one’s own coun­try, its peo­ple and their fun­da­men­tal needs or de­sires is not all bad.

Of course that does not mean ac­cep­tance of ex­clu­sion­ary views or propo­si­tions un­der­lined by the per­spec­tive of, “we must win and they must lose”. It would be id­i­otic to think that Le­banon, or any other coun­try in to­day’s world, can thrive in iso­la­tion. The global destiny of peo­ple on earth is larger and more im­por­tant than any zero-sum game plan of an in­di­vid­ual na­tion. In this re­gard, it would cer­tainly not be con­struc­tive to an­swer ev­ery id­i­otic mea­sure with a sim­i­lar re­tal­ia­tory counter-mea­sure.

If we agree to one part of a sen­tence from the Jan­uary 20 in­au­gu­ra­tion speech of new Amer­i­can Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, it is the con­fir­ma­tion “that a na­tion ex­ists to serve its cit­i­zens”. But we in­sist that if we are to put Le­banon first, we do it right. We say it is right to put Le­banon first — only if it is un­der­stood that we must put na­tion over group in­ter­est, par­ti­san loy­alty to a com­mu­nity and in­di­vid­ual iden­tity.

We also agree that “it is the right of all na­tions to put their na­tion’s first”, but we will not re­lent in em­pha­siz­ing what this means. Stand­ing up for Le­banon ab­so­lutely re­quires, with­out any ne­go­ti­a­tions, to ad­here to the “en­dur­ing val­ues of lib­erty and jus­tice for all”, as AUB Pres­i­dent Fadlo Khouri put it in a let­ter in re­sponse to Trump’s ex­ec­u­tive or­der bar­ring en­try to the United States for cit­i­zens of seven coun­tries. Ex­ec­u­tive agrees that it is time to show that, as Khouri wrote, “those val­ues which unite us all as a hu­man race are so much more pow­er­ful than all the fac­tors that come be­tween us”.

We will go fur­ther and say that it is not only ed­u­ca­tion, but also im­mer­sion in busi­ness and eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity that, when con­ducted eth­i­cally and prop­erly gov­erned, will put the peo­ple of the world on a more equal foot­ing and rec­og­nize those val­ues that ev­ery de­cent hu­man be­ing needs in or­der to thrive. We also in­sist that it re­quires the same eth­i­cal con­duct from all Le­banese civil ser­vants; those who want to play for power and re­alpoli­tik have to abide by the rule that it is bet­ter to re­sign than to ac­cept an evil in the state’s sys­tems or griev­ous cor­rup­tion in a min­istry.

As a small coun­try sur­rounded by pow­er­ful neigh­bors, stand­ing up for Le­banon nec­es­sar­ily in­cludes build­ing not only a na­tional and co­her­ent iden­tity, but also cre­at­ing bet­ter in­fra­struc­tures and bet­ter ties to im­por­tant neigh­bors, in­clud­ing the coun­try to our east with which we have the long­est com­mon bor­der. Peace in Syria will be the best-case sce­nario for Le­banese pros­per­ity, not a wall or even rais­ing of in­vis­i­ble bar­ri­ers against for­eign la­bor.

For the past 25 years, Le­banon has suf­fered from a de­plorable sense of in­fe­ri­or­ity and for­eign de­pen­dency, and the peo­ple of Le­banon have felt that their coun­try was ex­ist­ing for the rul­ing class and not for them. Both things have to change by mak­ing Le­banon a bet­ter place to live in, and by con­se­quently, al­low­ing the coun­try to be­come a source of jus­ti­fied pa­tri­otic pride for its cit­i­zens.

In the first in­stance, this ef­fort must en­tail the adop­tion of an elec­toral law that can pro­vide all cit­i­zens with a sense of rep­re­sen­ta­tion. While the project of a per­fect and 100 per­cent fair elec­tion law in this coun­try, with its multi-tiered struc­ture and di­verse com­mu­ni­ties, could be a sub­ject of eter­nal de­bate (see ex­plainer on page 18 for the op­tions), par­lia­men­tary agree­ment on a law will go a long way to­ward en­hanc­ing a sense of na­tional own­er­ship and iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with the na­tion among its first­time vot­ers and slightly older pop­u­lace with ex­pe­ri­ence from pre­vi­ous par­lia­men­tary races alike.

Next, by fo­cus­ing on na­tional pride and its eter­nal coun­ter­part, civil re­spon­si­bil­ity, it will be use­ful for Le­banon to con­cen­trate on mea­sures that bring tan­gi­ble im­prove­ments to all peo­ple, like in­vest­ment in in­fra­struc­ture. Le­banon needs more func­tional in­fra­struc­tures in ev­ery re­spect: garbage treat­ment is per­haps the most ur­gent con­cern (see page 14), but so are power, in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, hous­ing, roads, bridges and al­ter­na­tive trans­porta­tion sys­tems, as well as soft in­fra­struc­tures in govern­ment ser­vices and fun­da­men­tal so­cial safety nets, plus ed­u­ca­tion, health care, pen­sions and so on.

The ed­u­cated Le­banese al­ready know per­fectly well that this re­quires

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