Hussain Abdul-Hussain

Congratulations Chantal Sarkis

The appointment of Sarkis as the new secretary general of the Lebanese Forces is a positive step forward for meritocracy and the participation of women in politics

Chantal Sarkis. (lebanese-forces.com)

Lebanese Forces (LF) Chief Samir Geagea “resolved” that Chantal Sarkis become the first secretary general of his party, in what seems to be unprecedented in the history of the nation’s major political parties.


Inside and outside LF, Sarkis is widely known for her integrity, hard work and skill. Her appointment was overdue and represents a victory for women in a country where only a handful of women — mainly widows, sisters, daughters or aunts of living or late male politicians — serve in parliament or the cabinet.


Despite Sarkis’ breakthrough appointment, Lebanon’s political parties — including LF — remain the antithesis of democracy. Almost without exception, “presidents” of the nation’s political parties inherit their job from their fathers, fathers-in-law, brothers and even uncles. Once in position, “presidents” of these parties have tenure for life.


To spice up their party life, “presidents” invented a host of “leadership” positions — such as vice presidents, secretary generals and politburo members — that they rotate among loyalists. Party hierarchies are rubber-stamp councils whose influence over their “presidents” is usually minimal.


Roles of these senior party members, serving underneath “presidents,” usually include the organization of rallies and memorials. They also supervise the operation of the party’s apparatus, such as propaganda media outlets, and make sure that their party’s president — or his designated successor — is the top story in every newscast. Senior party people are also media figures, often defending whichever new position their party president takes, even if that means contradicting what they had said only a day before.


Inside their parties, “presidents” are treated like deities. They are rarely referred to by their name, and are instead given epithets such as “general, doctor, Mr, Sayyed, Beik” and so on.


In the news that reported Sarkis’ appointment as LF Secretary General, her name is buried toward the end of the news articles, which starts by stating that “according to a resolution by LF President Dr. Samir Geagea, the resignation of comrade Dr. Fadi Saad was accepted from his position as secretary general.” The report adds: “And based on the resolution of the president of the party, the resignation of comrade Dr. Chantal Sarkis as electoral and political advisor to the president was accepted, and she was appointed as secretary general based on the resolution of the president of the party.”


Thus, even in a one-line news announcing the appointment of Madame Sarkis as LF’s secretary general, there were five references to Geagea, and only one to Sarkis, who was in theory the subject of that news piece. Such piece of reporting that centers on the person of the party chief suggests that, despite the great news of Sarkis’ elevation to senior party leadership, the LF — like all other Lebanese parties — suffers from a personality cult that is hardly amenable to the advancement of women’s rights.


But to see the cup half full, Geagea’s “resolution” of appointing Sarkis as LF secretary general is a “step in the right direction,” a friend wrote me, since such a “resolution” is based on meritocracy and takes into consideration Lebanon’s desperate need to involve more women in politics.


Sarkis’ appointment as LF secretary general was a positive step by Geagea indeed. What would have been a better step was for Geagea to retire and hand over the party to Sarkis. Geagea has been the party’s leader since 1985. Even Nelson Mandela understood that historic leaders should retire and make way for others to lead.


Congratulations to Sarkis and Geagea for their roles in bringing meritocracy and gender equality to their party. Perhaps in the near future, and under Sarkis’ leadership, we even hear better news that include limiting the tenure of whoever serves as LF president, downgrading his status from deity to normal human being and including more women in the party’s decision-making, and maybe that of Lebanon at large.

Chantal Sarkis. (lebanese-forces.com)

Her appointment was overdue and represents a victory for women in a country where only a handful of women — mainly widows, sisters, daughters or aunts of living or late male politicians — serve in parliament or the cabinet.

  • L.C.R

    In the East politics is dominated by men for the main reason of 'that is the way it has always been' whilst in the West politics seems to have taken to the other extreme of trying to achieve parliamentary gender 'quotas'. These are both foolish and in fact extreme approaches. We can never seek to solve a nation's problems by making gender representation the be all and end all. Whilst we should always be encouraging of women to participate in politics the ultimate test should be that of MERIT.

    October 21, 2016

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    Too bad for you, Abdul-Hussain, that she is a Christian Arab rising in the ranks of a Christian Arab party. I don't believe that your applause of this move is sincere. Your pretense to liberalism is fake because it will be a long time before you see a woman rise up the pecking order of such Bronze Age parties as Amal, Hezbollah, Mustaqbal, or other Arab-Muslim parties in this backward part of the world, notwithstanding the wraps, veils, and long black coats that she may still be forced to wear.

    October 20, 2016

  • Fariss101

    Hannibaal-Atheos you are better than that; surely you can't accuse the writer of not being sincere! Come on my friend; you should be happy- as I am- that people appreciate any move in the right direction.

    October 20, 2016

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    Of course I appreciate the move of a woman rising to the top of a political party in this part of the world. But Hussain's insincerity oozes out of his criticism that she was a mere footnote, appointed by a male, etc... And this is from a wannabe journalist who praises Siniora as a "statesman" and who chooses to criticize the only political party, among all the barbaric political parties around (Syrian Nazis, Baath Fascists, Kataeb Fascists, FPM, etc...), that actually promotes women, namely the LF. I am no fan of Geagea, but credit is due where merited. Let Hussain focus for a change on criticizing Arab-Muslim parties - he's got so many around - for being the epitomes of barbarism and backwardness, rather than harp on the puny semblance of liberalism one finds in Lebanon.

    October 21, 2016

  • Petrossou

    Just for your information, the LF has an internal status where as the President is elected and chosen by the party basis and Dr. Geagea was chosen to be the President of the party whether this pleases anyone else or not. The same occurs to all presidents of regional national or international LF offices. Therefore, it is time that all of those that hate him, for no reason though, should get used to the idea that today's most competent Lebanese politician to rule the country is HE and embed very well into the cells of their brains that HE will be next President of the country when the time comes.

    October 19, 2016

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    war criminal. There may be legal statutes of limitations. The warlords who destroyed this country may have issued themselves an amnesty. But there is no moral statute of limitation. Those of us who lived under the barbarity and gangsterism of the militias of Bashir Gemayel, Walid Jumblatt, Nabih Berri and others... cannot accept your naive and ignorant elevation of these warlords to the level of heroes. Just ask Etienne Sacre (Abu Arz), who fought alongside Geagea, what he thinks of him. In any case, you must be squirming in your seat at the sight of yet another, equally respectable warlord by the name of Michel Aoun, closing in on the presidency. The Lebanese people deserve their misery because they worship their criminals as heroes.

    October 20, 2016

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    Missing first sentence from reply above: Geagea ... For President? Are you insane? A war criminal will always be a war criminal. There may statutes .... Also, Petrossou, learn some English or use spell-check, please. The word is "internal statute", not "status"... "Party base", not "basis"...etc.

    October 20, 2016