Shane Farrell

New Hope or Another Talking Shop?

Motivated by disillusionment with the established political system, and encouraged by the Arab Spring, a group of some 30 people announced yesterday the foundation of the Lebanese Civil Coalition.

Politically astute, but not aligned to any established party or group, the founding members are a composite of academics, intellectuals and media figures, among others.

The word “civil” in the group’s title, according to its manifesto, implies a state based on the principles of law, democracy, justice, equality and non-sectarian divisions.

The manifesto also notes that the group seeks the strengthening of political institutions, which it believes are weak and politicized, as well as the enforcement of laws.

Journalist and political activist Malik Mroue told NOW Lebanon that the enforcement of legislation in Lebanon is extremely selective. “We have good laws, but they are treated as if they were on a menu,” he said. “The ones that are implemented are chosen according to tastes.”

Mroue sighted, as an example, the controversial case of former Free Patriotic Movement Brigadier Fayez Karam, who was recently sentenced to a two-year prison sentence for passing on information to Israel, a crime for which others have received much longer terms.

The LCC does not believe in revisiting the constitution, according to Mroue, but calls for a proportional-representation electoral system to be implemented in order to facilitate the inclusion of a new political class that Mroue said would be based on merit. This would be in contrast to the current political system, which members say is based on traditional family ties and connections.

In keeping with its desire for the Lebanese state to take primacy over sectarian-dominated institutions, the LCC calls for weapons to be in the hands of the Lebanese army, for the justice system to be separate from political institutions and to implement legislation judiciously, and for the government to have the monopoly over foreign policy and legislation. Moreover, it calls for an end to geographical areas of the country being held off limits for the state and the rule of Lebanese law.

Regarding its stance on the Palestinian cause, the manifesto states that Lebanon will “always remain part of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle, but that it should be a burden shared by other Arab countries in the context of a unified Arab strategy.”

How the coalition proposes going about these changes, it did not say. This, according to members who spoke with NOW Lebanon, will be the subject of future workshops and meetings the LCC intends to hold on a regular basis. The coalition also intends to release statements on political issues as they arise.

As it stands, issuing statements and lobbying the political classes is as far as the movement intends to go, its members said when asked whether the coalition intended to replace the political parties it criticizes. As activist Moustafa Fahs told NOW Lebanon, “We should not act like a political party but [rather] as an ensemble that criticizes [political failures] through statements, the media and other platforms.”

But there was a noticeable absence of young people on the panel that announced the formation of the coalition, and only two women.
Activist Lokman Slim said that attempts would be made to address this “through many methods, including social media,” and that the LCC represented only one face of a movement. “I’m sure you will see more and more coalitions from people who are younger and who feel equally marginalized, but for different reasons.”

To back this up, he pointed to a small initiative in Jbeil over the weekend that also stated that in the context of the Arab Spring, Lebanon needs to turn over a new leaf and focus more on equality among the Lebanese and end sectarian divisions. “I know about many other initiatives which will turn public soon,” he added.

As for the LCC, it is still too early to predict what course it will run. The litmus test will occur once – or if – it creates a political program to back up its manifesto. Only then can one begin to judge its success.

Nadine Elali contributed reporting to this article.

  • Smiley

    "The word “civil” in the group’s title, according to its manifesto, implies a state based on the principles of law, democracy, justice, equality and non-sectarian divisions." Equality? There are nine persons in that picture, and all are men. Couldn't these guys even realise how much their message was undermined by the absence of women. Given the profile of so many women reformers in lebanon and the region, they could have done much better. Well, at least the symbol of the martyr with the beacon was a woman.

    October 15, 2011

  • Rina

    Great job! Glad someone's finally stepping up. Hopefully, they can carry enough clout to actually bring about change

    October 14, 2011

  • kazan

    Previous attempts failed, mainly because the members had other priorities than the program they were working on. Sincerely wish you strength, patience, good luck, but above all perseverance that makes the difference.

    October 14, 2011