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    Law of the Jungle in Lebanon?

    Forging a new government in Lebanon has proved to be quite simple, judging by the dozens of Cabinet formations that have been “produced” by a range of politicians, all of whom lack the clout and authority to actually do so.

    Hurdles to forming a new government have always existed, along with a process of leaks and counter-leaks, but the process has never descended to the level where a leading politician can publicly dictate who should get exactly how much, and what, in terms of specific portfolios.

    The latest chapter in the saga unfolded this week when Michel Aoun declared that President Michel Sleiman had been “disqualified” from requesting a share of influence in the executive branch, after supposedly forfeiting his position as a consensus head of state.

    Meanwhile, other groups have taken a different track, solemnly declaring that Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati is free to do as he wants, and faces no constraints or pressure as he seeks to form a government.

    One might say that only a child would believe such a thing, but in Lebanon, not even children are politically naive enough to buy such rhetoric.

    While forming a government has always seen regional involvement, and frenzied horse-trading, it has rarely reached such a dysfunctional level.

    The names of “favorites” for certain ministerial portfolios are routinely tossed around, and these trial balloons often carry the names of the brothers, cousins, sons-in-law, and brothers-in-law of leading figures, signaling the degree to which national politics remains a “family affair.”

    For such wheelers and dealers, the Cabinet is merely a big cake, which deserves a fierce feeding frenzy.

    Meanwhile, the only person who has not made sweeping pronouncements about what is likely to come, how long it will take, and what the new government will stand for, is Mikati himself. Not to worry, since various sides have stepped into the breach and come up with their own Cabinet make-up, and details of its policy statement.

    The process, as such, is an insult to the Lebanese, and it is a shame that democracy has come to this. If the formation process reflects the law of the jungle, only the strongest will have his say.

    By continuing in this fashion, leading politicians risk alienating one of the country’s biggest sects, namely young people, as they watch a captivating process these days. Unfortunately, this process is playing out in other Arab countries, where young populations are struggling for a say in deciding who rules them, and how.

    Lebanese politicians might think they can ignore the aspirations and needs of their youth-dominated population, but that is exactly what their colleagues in other countries believed a few short months ago.

    The Daily Star
    18.02.2011

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