I am neither a proponent nor an opponent of the “Orthodox Law” (OL). I am simply asking for an adult discussion about this highly interesting phenomenon in the history of contemporary Lebanon.
I am asking for an intelligent national debate as I haven’t read a single comment with a relevant point so far. Most of us is lost in emotional clap-trap. Can we please stop venting and try to think a bit more analytically? Let’s have a constructive debate; let’s criticize OL and any other law, but please: let’s use real arguments.
I would like to play the devil’s advocate here and review, quickly, some major absurd comments I have read, and then suggest broader interpretation.
Absurd comment #1: “I am happy that some politicians voted in favor of the OL. Now I know for whom I will not vote”.
So you will vote for those who boycotted the meeting? The Future Movement and the PSP are truly secular parties that do not reject OL on sectarian grounds. Absolutely.
Absurd comment #2: “In case OL is put into effect, Michel Aoun’s Greek-Catholic wife will not be able to vote for him.”
Reality: She would otherwise vote in Haret Hreik (Baabda district) whereas her husband would again run for the elections in Kesrouan. But with the OL, she will vote for a Greek-Catholic Aounist MP. Same result.
Absurd comment #3: “OL is a racist law”.
And the 1943 National Pact is not? Having a Maronite President, a Sunni Premier and a Shi’i Speaker is not a racist arrangement? Well, there is a great deal of ethnic/sectarian discrimination in power-sharing democracy paradigm. It seems like some of us just realized this country is all about ta’ifiyye. Duh.
Absurd comment #4: “With OL: Sunni Beiruti ‘elites’ will be at the mercy of the radical & ignorant Sunnis of Saida & the North; The Greek-Orthodox, Armenian, & Shi’i communities will be entirely taken over by the SSNP, the Tachnag, & Hizbullah; Super-parties will wipe away independent leaders; The end of Junblat’s supremacy within the Druze community will be a source of civil and sectarian unrest [?]; In short, OL consecrates the rule of rural populations over the urban ‘elites.'”
1) On the rural/urban divide: this is a bleak and not-so-true portrayal of Lebanese rural populations. But regardless, doesn’t that mean that previous electoral laws have consecrated the opposite hegemony, i.e., that of urban “elites” (not sure this is a valid depiction) over the “poor, radical, illiterate” rural populations?
2) This comment actually confirms the arguments of OL’s proponents. It clearly implies that the country’s political structure is inexorably sectarian.
3) Independent leaders will disappear. I tend to believe that OL will shift the power struggles from between the sects (inter-sectarian) to within the sects (intra-sectarian), which will contribute to the weakening of existing leaderships/za’amat. In short: new leaders will emerge who will challenge the hegemony of existing super-parties/zu’ama’.
Absurd comment #5: “OL will take us back to Prehistorical times.”
Consider this post by Take Back Parliament, for instance:
This is prejudicial and truly offensive to cavemen. Cavemen were never sectarian, we are. They were tribal, yes, but hey, so are we still (remember the Municipal elections?). Did you know that our forebears were far less sectarian than we are today, 200, 300, 400 years ago? Did you know that the culture of sectarianism in Lebanon is a purely modern phenomenon dating back to the 19th century?
This kind of comment is typical of the evolutionist stance, according to which “primitive cultures are backward” and “modern cultures are developed”. This paradigm is also called the modernist paradigm, which was also an established analytical grid for Marxist/leftist authors. Well, things are a little bit more complicated than that since we observe nowadays that tribalism and confessionalism are often a byproduct of modernity.
But, you know, let’s forget about all the above. What really strikes me is that none of the hysterical critiques of OL — especially from the so-called “Civil Society” — has actually proposed a realistic alternative. Let’s not impose secularism on our sectarian compatriots, and vice versa; let’s make up a mixed antidote (secular and sectarian) that would be deemed acceptable by both.
Let’s keep our normative thinking away for once and ponder on the significance of OL. I think “March 14 coalition” is now dead. What happened on Tuesday is perhaps the Christian revenge against the 2005 Quadripartite Alliance; against the passive adoption of Ghazi Kanaan’s Law in 2005; against the adoption “by default” of the 1960 Law in 2009.
The unanimity of “Christian” parties about OL, cutting across the March 14/8 divide is a major indicator of common “feelings,” “representations,” “interests” or whatever you may want to call it. Why did this convergence happen?
No matter which Electoral Law we discuss, we will end up in the situation that La Fontaine describes in “The miller, his son and the donkey.” So let’s think in sociological terms why we reached this situation, and ask: w halla2 la weyn?