Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement sets out its program for reform

Published June 16th 2005 in The Daily Star
An unblemished electoral law is a must, the objective of which should be to replicate inside Parliament the diversity of Lebanese society. To this end, it must secure the representation of the citizens on the one hand, and national integration on the other. Those two functions depend on the size of the electoral districts and must manage between themselves a paradoxical relation.

The larger the district, the less accurate is the representation, but the greater the national cohesiveness.

Two scenarios seem possible: Either a gradual transition from small to large districts, or a mixed ballot that blends together the majority system (for small districts) and proportional representation (for large districts). The latter fulfils the two criteria of proximity and national cohesion. The polling mechanism ought to respect the delicate sectarian balance that characterizes Lebanese society.

A new electoral law would have to define the terms under which elections are held, such as campaign budgets, equal access of candidates to the media, etc. The ballot results would clearly settle the question of the candidates' participation in the government as well as how representative they are. Such elections and the international support they muster would propel political life toward democracy.

Members of Parliament are not brokers of administrative services, let alone dispensers of favors that they manage to obtain here and there in order to secure the loyalty of their voters. These practices are at the core of the patron-client relationship that defines our system of governance and they have weakened our institutions.

The MP must recover his or her role as a legislator and monitor of government actions. This is the essence of the mandate he or she is entrusted with.

For this reason, we propose an absolute nonconcurrence of any other function with that of a member of Parliament.

Any prior experience of the individual at the local government level is certainly useful, but it precedes that of an MP whose mission is to serve the interests of the nation before all else.

The MP must be elected on the basis of his government program and no longer on the basis of his position as a local traditional leader. The proportional representation we support for the electoral law does promote the candidates' programs and underscores their primacy as a criterion for deciding between candidates.

Lebanon can no longer sustain its three-headed institutional system, which has become a symbol of paralysis and absence of genuine authority. This system, which has served the occupier for the past 15 years, has enshrined a kind of communitarian tribalism. It is an archaic structure that kills any progress and confines Lebanon to an anachronistic situation.