Lebanon Needs A One Colour Cabinet.


By Ghassan Karam

The current Lebanese make up of the cabinet; the so called national unity government; has been nothing short of an abject failure in every single respect.  The Lebanese experience should be used as a poster child for the inefficacy and absurdity of a multicoloured government. The real victims of this unworkable mixture of two ideologies that have diametrically opposing aims and that have totally opposing visions of what should guide the policies of the state are the Lebanese citizens whose aspirations , dreams and hopes have been dealt one blow after another.

Lebanon needs to go back to a single colour government. It does not matter which party forms the cabinet as long as the party in question can put together a cabinet whose ministers are committed to a single vision to which they agree to devote all their energies and powers of persuasion.

The past two cabinets have amply demonstrated the inadvisability of a cabinet whose membership is not homogenous. How can we expect ministers, who have nothing in common, not even their allegiance to the stae, to function as a team. There are certain things that do not mix no matter how hard one tries or wishes for them to operate as a team. Whenever the members of the same team do not pull in the same direction then their efforts will at best neutralize each other at the expense of the citizen who is left waiting for Godot.

Both major camps are equally to blame for not having the courage to level up with the Lebanese people to tell them that the current cabinet has been just as ineffective as the previous one. In a sense one can even make the case that both cabinets have even been counterproductive when measured by the total lack of accomplishments on any front. The previous cabinet spent most of the time arguing about whether the cabinet lost its legitimacy as soon as the HA cabinet members and their allies stopped attending cabinet meetings.  Many in the March 14 alliance blamed the HA cabinet coalition for taking the government hostage by paralyzing the ability of the cabinet to meet and adopt meaningful policies that the Lebanese were eagerly awaiting in all areas, political, social and economic.

What is unfortunate but not unexpected is that March 14 seems to have switched positions with the Hezbollah cabinet members.  March 14, led by Sa’ad Hariri the prime minister has done everything possible but call a cabinet meeting in months. But what is even more tragic is that the cabinet meetings are superfluous anyway. The public has become accustomed to the lack of ability to govern and to lead by both sides.

Hezbollah and its associates carry a larger part of the blame for the current standoff since this novel but silly idea of forming a cabinet from all sides is their idea. What this national unity government has effectively done is subvert the Lebanese democratic system that is built on the idea of separation between the executive and the legislative. In the current makeup the Chamber of Deputies plays no important role besides rubber stamping what the opposing parties agree to in the cabinet, which has not been much lately.

Lebanon needs to restore to the Chamber its role to hold the cabinet responsible for the progress or lack of it. But when the cabinet represents all of the factions in the Chamber then who is going to hold whom responsible for what? There is a solution and an effective one for that matter; let the party with the most votes in the Chamber form a one colour cabinet that will have no excuse not to meet and perform the people’s business. These ministers and MP’s do not come cheap anyway. Actually they are some of the best paying jobs in the country and the poor Lebanese citizen can hardly afford these expenses especially when the recipients fail to perform their assigned task. Let the majority govern and let the minority oppose so that the public will be able to hold the parties accountable. A one colour cabinet will have no excuse not to meet and not to perform because as soon as it fails to meet or perform then the other party could call for a vote of confidence. No one can do that under the current unworkable system of unaccountability.