We think that you have a couple of words to tell about the corruption in Lebanon’s political class...
It is well-known that Lebanon’s political elite is a closed circle. It is self-selected. It is a remnant of a feudal mentality, where the feudal lord is the leader of a band of followers. It is based on a sectarian impulse, which religious affiliation tends to shape the nature and character of the political system. Look at it this way: Lebanon’s civil war came to an end in 1990. Twenty-six years have elapsed since the day the warring factions put down their arms, affected some cosmetic changes in the political system, and vowed to build a multi-sectarian society on the basis of mutual respect. Now look at the political factions running the country today. They are basically the same leaders and factions that were on the scene during the dark days of the civil war. Name one instance in history — just one — where twenty-six years after the end of a civil war the country is still run by the civil war factions! This is what I mean when I say that Lebanon’s political elite is a closed circle. The guns went silent, but the old feudal lords and the feudal families are still in charge. The political class finds a way of perpetuating itself. It does not allow for the rotation of power among various political voices. This is a kind of political corruption that is deeply embedded in Lebanon’s political culture.
What do you think about the democratic system in Lebanon? There are 18 officially recognized religious groups in there and it must be difficult to conserve the rule of law and the major elements of democracy.
Outsiders looking at Lebanon often cite the number of religious groups in our country as a kind of hindrance to democracy or an impediment for progress. The trouble is, the Lebanese people do not see it that way. Lebanon’s religious diversity is a sociological and historical fact. The Lebanese people rightly take pride in this diversity, and by and large the various factions have found ways of living harmoniously among themselves. My view is that there is rich human material found in all of Lebanon’s religious grouping; there is a lot of talent out there, especially among the young and women, but this rising generation is cut off from fully participating in the country’s political life because of Lebanon’s closed feudal power-sharing arrangements
How do you regard the benefits and drawbacks of confessionalism in the politics of Lebanon?
As I mentioned above, “confessionalism” is not a drawback as such. It has been made into a hindrance to progress by Lebanon’s governing elite. If you stop to think about it, there is no reason why a Lebanese citizen cannot be a full member of his or her religious community while at the same time find common ground to build up a civil state on non-sectarian grounds. The Lebanese people have the capacity to maintain a society built on the basis of confessional or religious consensus. We must always find ways of strengthening that social consensus.
Why did you get involved into politics?
Lebanon’s political class has a common cause to silence and to marginalize new voices — independent political voices. This is where I come in. This is why I threw my hat in the ring and offered my services as president. I am an independent political activist and I am not beholden to any of the vested interests, militia leaders, or feudal dynasties. I say let’s have a free and fair parliamentary election in which independent candidates can run for office on an equal basis with the political class and we will see the width and depth of desire on the part of the voters for new voices and new faces in national affairs.
Can you describe ‘citizen’s state’ – one of your promises for the election?
Citizen state, first of all, is essentially a civil state based on the reign of righteousness, law and social justice, while supporting civil peace and sustainable development. It guarantees the respect of equal rights and liberties for all citizens, projecting equal opportunities for all, as an essential precondition for a prosperous society.I am calling for the Third Republic, a Citizens’ Republic, that puts citizenry and the citizens’ future and well-being on top of its priorities. People will obtain their essential rights such as, healthcare for all, state-sponsored education, retirement and housing plans, as well as their basic necessities like electricity, water, public transportation, and fast internet. When they get these essential rights, this will enhance their citizenry, patriotism, and sense of belonging to the nation rather than a sect or a feudal lord. This quality shift will reverse the discordant equation of personal interests, currently prevailing, into servicing the higher interests of citizens.
What kind of actions can be taken in order to prevent the discrimination towards women if we talk in the terms of the Lebanese law system?
Lebanese law and policies remain discriminatory for women. For example, Lebanese women cannot convey citizenship to their children. Women are disadvantaged in terms of marital rights, divorce proceedings, and child custody, and there are still legislative improvements that need to be undertaken in the labor law, social security, and penal law. Moreover, there are inadequate and incomplete legal safeguards protecting women from domestic violence.
What can be done? First and foremost, Lebanon needs women in decision-making positions so they can push and pressure for major legal reforms. To do this, we need a temporary quota in the electoral law, as there are many women willing to enter the political arena, but are blocked by the legal barriers, patriarchal mentality, and corrupt political system.On the other hand, Lebanon needs legislative improvement on the above-mentioned issues, such as:
An optional civil personal status code to ensure equal rights for all Lebanese.
A new nationality law
A law against sexual harassment and child marriage
Amendments to the penal code, labor law, social security codes, as well as the recently- enacted law for the protection against domestic violence.