March 24, 2022
In Lebanon, there is a crisis within a crisis that is wrapped up in another crisis. And they all feed off each other. Today, one clear crisis resides within the weakness of the traditional Sunni political power. It is not something new — the weakening of Sunni politics in Lebanon’s confessional system has been going on for decades and has had a clear impact on the country’s politics. Indeed, the political system is all about the balance between confessions and minorities. This is the essence of the system and what keeps everything in check. Yes, even corruption needs order.
Today, as May’s parliamentary elections approach, it is clear that the Sunni street is in complete disarray. None of the present Sunni political leaders seem able to fulfill expectations. Moreover, people no longer look for their old-fashioned leadership style.
There has been a consistent weakening of Sunni political power over many years that has contributed to the imbalance we live in today. The Sunni political leadership was always targeted. Starting during the Syrian occupation, the Sunni political leader or voice had a lower ceiling authorized than other minorities. The Syrian regime could not tolerate the impact of a popular Sunni voice for many reasons.
After the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and the withdrawal of Syrian troops, Hezbollah inherited the power to make decisions and it continued with the same strategy. For a period of time, the Lebanese of all confessions, when united, were able to counterbalance this power and push for achievements. Unfortunately, this all collapsed on May 7, 2008, when Hezbollah took to the streets. That was the day all the Lebanese lost.
And so, this weakness or vacuum did not suddenly occur when Saad Hariri stepped down a few months ago. It had already been in place for years. His departure was honoring the dead and proceeding with the burial. From the Syrian regime’s days to Hezbollah’s rule, there has been a consistent goal to humiliate the opposing prime minister or at least block their work until they submit to their will. If assassinations are not enough, the numerous times Lebanon has had a caretaker prime minister can eloquently attest to this.
However, this crisis is not exclusive to the Sunnis. Hearing President Michel Aoun state that the Christians in Lebanon need the protection of Hezbollah is a catastrophic failure for both state and political leader. When citizens need the protection of a particular group to live in their own country, this is not a country — it is a racketeering business. But from whom exactly do Christians need protection? Does he mean the Sunnis? This is simply a lie to justify the fact that Aoun has sold himself to Hezbollah. And so, it is not only a Sunni crisis but a systemic crisis. And this is why, regardless of the regional geopolitical situation, Lebanon needs a new political system.
Such a leader will never emerge within the current political system, which empowers corruption and shady deal-making.
Khaled Abou Zahr
As a Sunni, I do not wish to see a Sunni leader. I wish to see a Lebanese leader. One that will represent and bring prosperity to all the citizens of the country, regardless of their beliefs. One that will bring sovereignty back. A leader that will not use confessions to control the people with fear. A leader that will unlock the potential of the country and allow all to live in prosperity. This will never happen with the current political system, which empowers corruption and shady deal-making. The current situation with the Lebanese central bank is a clear example. I would be curious to see the transfers that took place in the last six months before the collapse. I believe people would be surprised on many levels.
I am still in between thoughts regarding the upcoming parliamentary elections. On the one hand, as the French saying goes, “The absent are always wrong,” while on the other I would like to see a complete boycott of the current political system. However, for this boycott to be effective, there should be a capacity to push for structural change. Unfortunately, Hezbollah with its armed forces will not allow this unless it benefits its own interests and the regime in Tehran. And so, in that sense, it would be a mistake for the Sunni voices and their allies not to participate. Even if they have no real power, they can make their voices heard.
We should not make it easier for Hezbollah to take over the country. It is also the time to push for new ideas and a new political structure for Lebanon: One that does not put any confession under the protection of another or feed the balance between “minority lords.” This should happen even if Hezbollah would not allow it today.
We also need to be aware that we are headed for some tough times as Lebanese. The expected Iran nuclear deal is basically for the benefit of the Tehran regime and this will impact Lebanese politics severely. But Hezbollah and the Iranian regime are not the fate of the country. This is why there is a need to continue opposing Hezbollah and to stop it from destroying the fabric of this country. But this is not the role of a Sunni leadership — now more than ever, there needs to be a true Lebanese leadership. Breaking this confessional power structure is the first step. It is high time to move toward a Lebanon that is not ruled by minority lords and warlords. Lebanon needs a clear vision for the entire country, not for a single minority or confession.
- Khaled Abou Zahr is CEO of Eurabia, a media and tech company. He is also the editor of Al-Watan Al-Arabi.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point of view