I will join a Party When…

Written by Malek el Khazen

Currently there are no true parties in Lebanon.  In fact the most powerful and influential “parties” are all controlled by one man in Lebanon. Notice how many years their leaders are holding the top positions. And the funny phenomenon is that these positions seem to be property of the current leader instead of being the property of the party. Hence all these top positions are inherited from one generation to the other by family connections or closest advisor to the current leader. Is it possible that every member in the same party share 100% the same position then its leader.  This seems to be the case in Lebanon. Every member of the same party has the exact same position. If you are one of the reader that do not accept that a country is governed by the same President or Prime Minister for decades and you are currently part of a party why would you accept that  a party is govern by the same leadership branch for decades?
The big themes and strategy within one party should be the same. But tactics or different views for a specific law I do not see harm to voice difference. Sometimes difference is good! Let us take an example all of the members of the Democratic Party or Republican Party in the senate in USA never vote for a law the same way. Of course usually you find the majority of the party vote this way or vote that way. But they are always some members from both parties that cross the aisle towards the other party for some specific and sometimes even critical laws. You can find some cases in Lebanon with some few lawmakers but they are very few and this phenomenon is not very much welcome by the current leadership of the party.



When party members vote differently than their own party this can be very positive it helps decrease tensions btw different powerful parties.  I do not believe independent candidates are the solutions to our problems even though they have more freedom in voting and crossing the aisle. What I believe the solution is DIVERSITY in the same party but keeping the broad lines and structure consistent within the party. Let me clarify, Independent candidates can offer a lot of positives. And yes we need independent candidates but as much as we need independents we also need STRONG and UNIFIED parties with clear goals. One does not replace the other. In any country, you will find some conservative citizen and some liberal citizen. You can identify a SUCCESSFUL and STRONG party when you will have the ability to identify party members that are more conservative and other less conservative within the same party. Currently this is very hard to do so in Lebanon, it is even non-existent. We always need to have check and balances hence opposition and government at a country level. We also need to have the same check and balances at the party level. For any country to be strong it needs to have strong parties with clear ideas. You can notice most of the third world countries have weak parties because of dictatorship either at the party level or country level. It is not enough to have independents candidate, you need to have a group with unified strong and clear goals. This is why “joining a party” is the CIVIC duty for any citizen to be part of the political system and participate through a real DEMOCRATIC party.
 In Lebanon because of the way the system is setup to really make a difference the country need STRONG parties and participation as a UNIT where you have check and balances in the same party. The first step towards a better future for the country is REAL democracy at the party level. What we do NOT need is the same leader governing the party for decades or party members being photocopies of their leader. We all have mind. The great Napoleon passed away but France is still very powerful and moving forward. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson all passed away but USA managed to become the most powerful country because of the implementation and evolution of the ideas, structure and better vision of these great leaders. A strong leader is not a leader that stays in power forever. A strong leader is a leader that has his vision carried on from generation to generation and referred to from generation to generation (De Gaulle, Churchill, Roosevelt etc.) The strong leader is a leader that has so successfully implemented his program where he does NOT need anymore to stay in power to ensure his success. But the movement that the leader has created will ensure evolution of his ideas. I have NEWS everyone is replaceable. This does not mean we need to replace a person for the heck of replacing him. We replace a person through democratic elections when its citizen or party members decide that we need new leadership or change of course. Furthermore, if a member from any party vote differently for ONE law then it is a DISASTER and most probably will be punished later on by his leadership in the party. I am not claiming difference is good but I am not either claiming one MAN party is good. We need to have strong parties. Furthermore, we can still be a VERY strong party and VERY unified one even if there is difference between members. Instead, what is happening in Lebanon if there is some minor difference then the faction will leave the party and create a new weaker party which in many cases will be ridiculed and form alliance with their opponents.
They were and still are amazing and UNIQUE great leaders but when these leaders has a clear program and implement it correctly then they do not have to stay in power for decades we can continue their work and ideas evolve with time. I understand that in some very few cases and critical situation that you can argue that some leaders has to remain in power but it is not the leader that should DECIDE when his program has been implemented or when we do not need him anymore. It is us the people, party members that decide when the program is implemented or should change course. We also need democratic parties. You can notice some parties in Lebanon hold the so called elections, but amazingly the leadership remain unchanged or leadership win by huge margins 90% and more of the votes! And in some other cases many parties in Lebanon were at a point very strong and influential because of the person governing this party. Then suddenly after the death of the leader it vanishes completely. Is this good leadership? Or good leadership is implementing a vision and future that will remain for centuries and serve many generations to come. What we need is REAL democracy at the party level. When we have real democracy at the party level then automatically the country structure and system will be very strong and really democratic. A country without parties is a weak country. Joining a party or being an independent should be a choice. Currently it is not!
To answer the question, of this article I will join a Lebanese party when I can vote for a change in leadership or when I can choose to keep the same leadership. This should be the choice of the majority of members of the party not the choice of the top leadership whether to step down or appoint party members. I will join a party when we can hold accountable the leaders of this party after mistakes. I will join a party when members of the party can vote for any other member for representing him. I will join a party where I do NOT need to be a photocopy of the leadership of my party. Please note this does not mean I will also be allowed to create harm to the party. There should be limits in both cases. We need parties as much as we need democracy. Both will guarantee a great future!
Finally, here is my suggestion we can strengthen our parties by electing the leadership. In fact, before any major election we should allow party members to vote for their representatives of their own party through primary elections and decide who should be the leader and lead his party for victory during the general election. Any citizen of Lebanon should be allowed to participate in the vote of ANY party leadership after choosing affiliation for ONE party and can vote only for ONE party during the primary election. To vote for a party you need to choose your party affiliation. When the member chooses his affiliation then he is allowed to vote only for this one party during the primary election. He can after the vote switch back as independent for the general election where he can choose an independent candidate or does not want to be labeled to be part of a party and can choose during the next round of elections not to be bound under one party. This will allow participation of all citizens in the election of the party that they have chosen, and also this will allow new and evolution of leadership. It will also allow the President or Speaker of the Parliament or Prime Minister to be part of a strong party where they will have real support from a group and real followers not the other way around. Currently any of these top and executive positions at the country level are not really effective if they do not have a full backup behind their support. Being part of one of the top position at the country level and not holding any of the top position at the party level undermines the position at the country level. It will be a lot easier to have laws being implemented and reducing tensions between different religions. By doing so, you will find also less sectarianism and less confessional division between different group. It will not be a sudden change but it will be a start. If we do not make a difference at the lowest part of the country (party level) then making a difference at the country level will never be possible. Lebanon has been under wars for centuries, invaded by many oppressors. The Lebanese people won their freedom against many powerful armies. The time may never seem the correct one to change leadership because of the instability in the region. But I have to ask this question if during centuries we were under revolutions, wars, fights and lived continuously through instability when is it the correct time to change leadership? I say NOW! Changing and creating STRONG parties will be the SOLUTION! Until then long live the ONE party I belong to which is Lebanon where I am still allow to choose my leadership and my representatives but always within limits.