SUN 23 - 9 - 2018
Jul 5, 2018
The Daily Star
Study digs into Lebanese Parliament from 2009 to 2017
Shadi A. Karam| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The key mainstay of an effective democracy is its elected assemblies because of the direct legitimacy they derive from the people. For this reason, they have been constitutionally entrusted with major functions among which, the approval of a national budget, the promulgation of laws, the overseeing of the executive branch of government and in some countries the election of a head of state.The performance of the Lebanese Parliament leaves much to be desired on all the above key pillars of its constitutional role according to the remarkably researched study recently published by the Lebanese Center of Policy Studies. The Lebanese Parliament 2009-2017: Between Extension and Voiding (this author’s translation of the Arabic title), as it is titled, should be a required reading in any political science curriculum or even in “citizenship-building” classes at the baccalaureate level. What in my days was known as civic education.
The study, characterized by very high standards, lasted over two years. It covered more than seven years of parliamentary proceedings. The research team led by Sami Atallah and Nayla Geagea, has gone over tens of thousands of documents: minutes, draft laws, briefing papers, etc.
It has also conducted thorough interviews with 65 MPs. The methodology, as reported, is scientifically beyond reproach, the analysis is objective and the approach is academic and non-partisan.
The reader detects between the lines some sadness and disappointment at the findings, which the authors have muted with modesty by the shroud of scientific rigor. Any normal citizen would also feel grieved by the sparse attention his representatives have devoted to the people’s interest over such a long stretch of time. But the reader will also find a wealth of information on the principle of equal sharing of seats between Muslim and Christian confessions, on how it can contradict equality among citizens and among candidates and favor clientelism.
What is interesting is that the information is presented and always analyzed, shedding light on the shortcomings and offering a constructive reform proposal as well as a roadmap for reform.
The study reveals that over the 2009-2017 period the Parliament held 50 sessions, during which a total of 67 meetings took place, some of which lasted only a few minutes, less than 10 meetings per year (Annex 3).
During these sessions, the study discloses (Annex 4) that only 31 laws, which directly concern the “interest of the people” were promulgated, less than five laws per year. Even an indicator of each MP’s performance was developed, giving equal weight to the two selected variables: attendance and participation.
Worthy of special attention is the exhaustive analysis of some of the contradictory stands within allied groups or even among MPs of the same political affiliation, which often result from a fundamental divergence between MPs’ individual interests and people’s concerns. Another masterful chapter focuses on how partisan pursuits weave compromises and offers the reader a dissection of the engines of politicking. The study also offers an interesting look at the fundamental challenges that cumulating the jobs of MP and minister pose to the core responsibility of Parliament in safeguarding the accountability of the Cabinet.
The regrettable conclusion is that the twin responsibilities of the Lebanese parliamentarians, namely, legislating and overseeing the work of the executive branch have not been discharged adequately. It is a deduction all Lebanese have arrived at intuitively. The LCPS study gives it the scientific and academic credibility and certainty. It is well written, enlightening and full of information. One cannot help but wonder how voters will act four years down the road having learned what the study reveals and how the new MPs will behave for those who will read it – I am told it was sent to all 128 of them.
Shadi A. Karam is a Lebanese finance, business and economy expert.
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