Last update: 2022-04-22 09:45:04

Lebanon's presidential elections are like labour pains that never end in the delivery of the expected child. After months of negotiations to find a replacement, the outgoing Lebanese president left office with parliament failing to elect his successor. The stubborn opposition of Sunnis, Druze and some Christians against others Christians and Shiites has made it impossible for the parties to choose a new head of state who, by convention, must be a Maronite Christian. Under the constitution a two-third majority in the country's parliament is needed; a provision does allow for the president to be elected with a 50+1 majority but only under exceptional circumstances. Although theoretically possible this option has so far been rejected by the current parliamentary majority and is greatly feared by a majority of Lebanese who are afraid it might trigger the break-up of the country and plunge it once again in civil war. The country's difficult economic situation has cost the governing majority popular support. Among some Christians the key role played by Hizbullah in the summer 2006 war with Israel discredited a charismatic figure like General Aoun when he threw his support behind the 'Party of God.' The net result has been a growing polarisation between the two camps, one that makes dialogue between them more difficult raising fear in the population. When parliament was sitting to vote for a new president, downtown Beirut took the airs of a ghost town. Few people dared to walk in the streets, stores were closed, and road traffic was all but non-existent, quite a change for such a bustling city like Beirut. The reality is that political life has come to a standstill. TV election coverage limps along focused mostly on slogans and on showing documentaries. News reports prefer to concentrate on the Mideast summit in Annapolis, an event that might provide some indications about the future if not an agreement. Moreover, the political responsibility of countries like the United States, Israel, Syria and Iran, which are seen as the real power brokers in Lebanon, comes up time and time again as the most important issue in the media. Even the harsh attacks that majority and minority level at each seem irrelevant in comparison to the widespread belief that the various domestic political players are but domestic puppets whose strings are pulled by foreign powers, a belief that has given rise to truly destructive emotions like desperation, resentment and a very weak sense of responsibility towards the present and the future. Andrea Pin