Hezbollah under pressure to allow change
The crisis in Lebanon is age-old and its people have been fed up for a long time now. Courage comes with a price: Tens, even hundreds, of people who dared demand change paid the price with their blood. However, this round of protests all over the country is different and no longer includes political sanctities, including Hassan Nasrallah and the other governmental leaderships.
The protests have also been characterized by the uprising of regions that are traditionally under the control of Hezbollah. They clearly defied Hezbollah and rejected its authority, which has forced Nasrallah to appear on television, threatening everyone including government ministers, warning that those who respond to the protesters’ demands to resign will be held accountable.
Most Lebanese people have agreed on change, but what change? The minister of tourism has even denounced their demands and said: “If you want to change, wait for the next elections. Exercise your right and vote for the people you want to represent you.” This is sophisticated political talk that seems logical — the political regime in Lebanon seems to be democratic, given the elections, the balance of powers and the three authorities: The president, the prime minister and the speaker of Parliament.
However, Lebanon’s politics is organized by the Taif Agreement’s laws, which are based on quotas and the preservation of political powers without change, no matter the turnover of candidates or number of elections. Worse still, the whole country is being held hostage by Hezbollah, the militia that is stronger than the national army, sowing terror in the hearts of politicians, businessmen and the whole community, and whose word and decisions are even more powerful than those of the army and security forces. Therefore, resorting to the ballot box cannot meet the demands of the Lebanese people, who have unanimously called for changing a situation that is no longer bearable on the standard of living and political levels.
The demands of the people call for a new non-sectarian and weapon-free electoral system
In the broadest movement since independence in 1943, the Lebanese are looking for a formula for the national state that brings them — residents belonging to 18 religious sects — together and ends the external interferences that use local powers to implement their agendas. The demands of the people call for a new non-sectarian and weapon-free electoral system.
The quest for an integrated national state is a demand we see repeated in a number of the region’s countries that suffer from divided political factions. It is the case in Iraq, which has seen a broad popular movement that calls for a national state, not the religious state that some armed factions are trying to impose by force.
Many people are hoping that the peaceful Lebanese revolt brings solutions that put an end to the country’s political corruption and armed absolutism and place it on the right path of development and stability. The many dangers threatening this movement are slowly disappearing one after the other.
Will Hezbollah allow the change the people of Lebanon are demanding? This is a party that has sacrificed thousands of Lebanese youths, who died protecting the regimes opposed to change in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and even within the Iranian regions that have seen revolts against power. Will it attack the people calling for change or allow it?
Regardless, the world knows today that, in Lebanon, there is a consensus against the quota system, corruption and weapons.
- Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel and former editor in chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Twitter: @aalrashed