What If You Could Only Vote For Candidates Who Share Your Religion?

The orthodox electoral law being proposed for the upcoming elections this year, and being championed by leading Christian political groups in Lebanon is a slap in the face of secularism and a huge step backward for a nation that is still struggling to move on from the decades of civil wars.

The free patriotic movement and their leader Michel Aoun (among others) as a law that will protect the rights of Christians is an abomination and will lead to further tensions between the main religious groups, solidifying a quasi-apartheid state. The proposed law is a shameful act of racism in a nation that claims to be a democracy and promote secularism.

In essence, the currently proposed electoral law will establish a system where for example, I as a Christian Maronite, will only be able to vote and elect a fellow Christian Maronite in my district ( and the same will apply for other religious groups). That means I can't elect a candidate that is not of the same religious group in my district — a candidate that will be representing my district and most importantly my nation.

Lebanon is a house of many mansions (Quoting Kamal Salibi), you can't understand it without understanding the role of religion, but we cannot and must not continue to allow that religion dictates the policies of the state from bureaucratic positions, to elected positions, policy, and worst of all the continuing policy of censorship.

Electing to go with the orthodox plan would be a major step backwards to the country, further dividing the religious groups and communities instead of bringing them together. Lebanon is a country of unity, where we cherish and appreciate the different cultures and religious groups (or so we are told growing up. This law will legalize racism, fuel extremism and promote hatred and fear of the “Other”

Additionally such law would decrease significantly what little is left for accountability of politicians. If passed this law would mean that an “X” MP would only be responsible/ accountable by/for “X” group in his district. This law will reduce the MPs obligations to serve the nation instead of their own specific group at a time when Lebanon needs the exact opposite. If this law passes, we would do better by abolishing the parliament and further solidify the already existent state within state mentality/reality championed by Hezbollah. A nation cannot be built on the basis of representation by religious group, its demise will be inevitable, and it is no different in Lebanon with 18 different religious groups in play. Members of parliament are representatives of the entire nation, they are servant of this nation and its people, all of them, and not simply those who share the same certain types of believes.

The underlying issue about this proposed law is much deeper than religious extremism. This law fundamentally is about corruption and a political class that is incapable of governing and serving its constituents, attempting so desperately to keep hold of its position of “power” in a country where state institutions have become almost obsolete, where citizens have been providing basic utilities for themselves for decades, buying their own water, heat, gas, and electricity privately, while still being forced to pay for awful service by the government. This law is yet another attempt by corrupt politicians, with blood on their hands from the civil war, a war that brought religious groups against one another, to prolong their dominance over this country.

If this law passes in parliament, the president of Lebanon will have the opportunity to veto this law, a decision that will define his presidency. I can only hope that President Suleiman will ensure that such law does not go into action for the upcoming elections.