After four marathonic sessions in parliament, the Electoral Law has been approved… without introducing much new. This, despite in-depth studies and recommendations by the Electoral Committee (for more, see previous posts from May).
Here is a sample of approved reforms (details here, in Arabic): reinforcing a culture of election and reinforcing democracy (whatever that means); submitting a report after the elections including suggestions for improvement (again!?); holding elections in one day (one positive thing) or maybe two should security dictate it (oh…); overseeing campaign spending; forbidding campaigning and distribution of electoral lists in front of polling stations on election day; etc.
There is more but there is a unifying theme for all of these “reforms”: make-up. Even the articles that could potentially be other than makeup (eg. limiting campaign spending, forbidding distribution of lists) have been approved only because they can be easily circumvented. Seriously, who is going to hold violators accountable?
On the other hand, simple reforms that would have made a world of difference were not introduced. Here is an emblematic one: On election day, pre-prepared and custom-tailored lists are habitually handed out at polling stations. Those handed a list upon entry are expected to drop it in the ballot box… as is. Combined with a stick-and-carrot approach, these lists effectively annul the right to a secret ballot. The Minister of Interior, Ziad Baroud, proposed today to introduce a printed-out, official and unified list of candidates for each electoral district that voters can tick off behind a curtain. A basic and, according to Baroud, doable solution. The proposal was defeated when put to vote: 50-70. No justification was offered. In addition, the voting pattern did not fall along loyalists-opposition lines (as if this division means anything!). Amal, Hizballah, Lebanese Forces, and Future Movement all voted against it (to their credit, FPM voted for the proposal).
Over the past four long years, resistance and dignity (Hizballah & Co.) and liberty and sovereignty (Hariri & Co.) took the front seat. This week the very same people who use this wooden language voted down reforms that could potentially turn these empty concepts into reality. Between the two possibilities of war without end and greed without limits, yet another election will be held under a semi-fabricated perpetual state of emergency.