Charting a new course

A picture taken on April 3, 2018 shows campaign posters, for the upcoming Lebanese parliamentary election, hanging in the Tariq Jedideh district of Beirut. / AFP- / Anwar AMRO

Campaigns for parliamentary elections in Lebanon have often turned the political debate into a competition in the mastery of charm to attract support for a candidate and stormy words for the other camp.

This tool is clearly present in the current campaign.

However, the ugly truth is that the vast majority of the electorate is just not interested.

Lebanese voters have been bitten many times in the past.

With few exceptions – which will doubtless be rewarded in the upcoming polls – they have seen politicians break campaign promises from the day results are announced.

In the absence of political accountability, much of the electorate is often cynical about the tours and speeches of candidates or sitting members of Parliament who show their faces solely during such occasions and disappear afterward into their luxurious compounds and villas.

Some candidates who are likely aware of the situation have adopted high-stakes oratory, using every rhetorical tool available to them regardless of the impact it might have.

In some cases, politicians covet posts so strongly they follow the dangerous route of awakening the hardly faded memories of the Civil War and engaging in sectarian speech that could enflame an already toxic atmosphere.

Therefore, should the present political dialogue prevail, no one should be surprised if the voting numbers in the upcoming polls are alarmingly low.

With less than three weeks to salvage the dilemma, a quick fix is needed. A new, transparent approach to current affairs should lead the way, and workable plans should be discussed with the electorate in order to treat voters as partners in the process rather than sheep.

Another potential contributor to the expected low turnout is the hastily cooked new electoral law.

With more holes than a ton of Swiss cheese, it has been attacked by most candidates.

The law leaves many with the choice of voting for a list on which they do not support all the candidates or refraining from voting at all.

The new law has also created a race among members of the same list, unleashing another tempest on the operation.

Politicians are thus advised to shed their blinkers and change their course swiftly if they wish to see more people queuing to vote, before worrying about whether they are going to be blessed with a seat in the next Parliament.

Yes, the headwind will be strong. Only those with vision, resolve and a good compass will meet the challenge.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 18, 2018, on page 1.




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