Throughout the years, Lebanon has taken pride in being the only democracy in the Arab World. With all its system's flaws and shortcomings – a self-styled so-called confessional and consensual democracy – it still provides a minimum of freedom of expression, recourse to justice and popular legitimacy to government through elections...or so we are made to believe.
FOR THE SECOND consecutive year, the Lebanese parliament seems intent on postponing constitutionally mandated elections and extending its term yet again. In June 2013, parliament used the failure to enact a new electoral law to extend its term for 17 months. 128 members of parliament not only had the arrogance to renew their mandate at the expense of popular legitimacy, but also turned a blind eye to the violence law enforcement resorted to in the face of peaceful citizens and civil society organizations protesting the illegal extension.
"Lebanon has taken pride in being the only democracy in the Arab World"
Unfazed, with almost no legislation or work to show for itself since June 2013, parliament appears ready to extend its mandate yet again, possibly for as long as two years and seven months. This time, parliament, and the Lebanese government in charge of carrying out the elections, blame the volatile security situation for the inability to hold elections. This, despite the fact that some political leaders and high-ranking government officials are said to have confessed behind closed doors that security isn't a valid excuse not to hold elections. Although the general population seems resigned to the de facto violation of the basic democratic principle of elections, civil society has already taken to the streets in protest twice so far. One organization, however, hopes to take this issue beyond the confines of its volatile, one-of-a-kind Kafkaesque-like republic.
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IN ONE OF THE FIRST actions of its kind, Beirut-based political organization For The Republic will depose an official complaint against the Lebanese parliament's extension to the United Nation's Human Rights Council. During a press conference on October 17 - to officially launch its international campaign against the parliament's extension - For The Republic explained how the complaint was based on the incompatibility of Law No. 246, which extended parliament's mandate in 2013, with international human rights conventions, namely the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Even though For The Republic has been active on the ground, it considered taking this step necessary to highlight the extent and severity of the rights being violated. As explained by one of the co-founders of the organization, Khattar Torbey, these include the principle of popular legitimacy, the right of citizens to participate in administering public affairs and the holding of elections on time. This would be further exacerbated given that such violations may happen again with the second possible extension.
"Of course, the U.N.'s Human Rights Council cannot put the Lebanese state in prison or force it to hold elections," noted Marwan Maalouf, another of the co-founders of For The Republic. "However, Lebanon's legitimacy in international forums can decrease substantially," Maalouf said, as he explained the potential impact of this action and its importance in highlighting political and civil rights violations. "We could even say that Lebanon has become a dictatorship, as a result of the extension," Maalouf lamented.
And when people in the Arab World once struggled for a better, fairer and more representative system of government, Lebanon so carelessly slips away from the democracy it already has, no matter how special and flawed it may be...