The Doha meetings were less of a “shock treatment,” as they have been called, and more of a placebo – no doubt brought about by regional occurrences whose contours are yet to emerge. If I have been harping on obsessively about the electoral law, it is because if the other aspects of the agreement have momentarily brought us back from the brink, it is the electoral law that will serve to reproduce the political class that will take us back to the brink.
Notwithstanding, al-Akhbar alone has picked up on this issue. One article cites an unnamed Beiruti parliamentarian who believes that the electoral law is the only real event in Doha, since the unity government will only be able to fulfill a caretaker role in preparation for the parliamentary elections next summer.
In addition to the farce of pre-allocating seats to be “elected” (see my previous post), the parliamentarian adds that the law presupposes the sectarian division of the districts. Therefore, its success, as far as the political elite is concerned, depends on keeping the high degree of sectarianism ongoing for the next year. The media, as usual, is playing and will continue to play its dutiful role.
According to another al-Akhbar article, the two main accomplishments of the new electoral law are (1) Future Movement does not feel defeated in Beirut and (2) the Christian voice has been reinstated. Abdo Sa`d, director of the Beirut Center for Research and Information, criticizes the law for not following proportional representation. This, again according to Sa`d, blocks the emergence of a new Sunni political elite, leaving hegemony to the Future Movement. Given Abdo Sa`d’s political inclinations, it should come as no surprise that he fails to mention that the relative majority system (a.k.a. first-past-the-post) blocks the emergence of any alternative, Sunni or otherwise.
All this is truly heartbreaking. It is all the more heartbreaking because all the work has been done. A guide to the proposed draft law can be read here (pdf). The suggested reforms are summarized here by Paul Salem. (both in English)
If I were into conspiracy theories, I would say the political elite engineered the whole crisis to reproduce themselves the way they did in Doha. But this is not a conspiracy. It is a farce. If it is making many Lebanese happy, it is because the only alternative they are being offered by their leadership is even worse.