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University of Balamand > Academics > Faculties > Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > News & Events > Political Involvement

Political Involvement

“It is not true that everything about our country is bad. We need to recognize our strong points and stop indulging in self-flagellation.” This is one of a series of interesting statements made by panelists in a recent event organized by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences where each speaker had a bare three minutes to make his case.

Held in Fares 119 on April 15, and organized by the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences in collaboration with the European Delegation, the first session of the “Panel Debate” included the participation of H.E. Cypriot Ambassador Homer A. Mavrommatis, H.E. Romanian Ambassador Daniel Tanase, former M.P. Jawad Boulos, Head of the Political Science and International Affairs Prof. Sami Ofeish, and renowned jurist Dr. Antoine Messarra, Director of the Fondation Libanaise pour la Paix Civile Permanente.

The panel addressed the issue of “Peace and Reconciliation” with the European participants drawing on the example of the European Union’s ability to bring together a large number of countries that only a few decades ago were at war. “Our situation in Cyprus,” said Ambassador Mavrommatis, “is typical of what the spirit of the European Union represents. Our country is in some aspects very similar to Lebanon, where we have different communities at odds, but we have made a decision to pursue a solution through dialogue.”

The Lebanese panelists, on the other hand, argued that reconciliation would require more than just a decision to cease fighting or to push existing conflicts into the background. Rather, they argued, it would require a restructure of a system that does not allow for peaceful resolutions of differences. A state of war exists, said Mr. Boulos, “when the legal and constitutional instruments to resolve conflicts are blunted.”

Mr. Adnan Melki, Secretary General of the Lebanese Association for Democratic Reform, joined the panelists for the second session of the program, dedicated to “Political Participation,” during which a number of panelists called on the young members of the audience, and particularly the women, to take a more active role in politics.

Prof. Ofeish argued in favor of a quota for women MPs, although he emphasized that this could only be a temporary measure meant to encourage greater female representation in the Legislative Power. Prof. Ofeish also strongly advocated lowering the voting age to 18, a view defended by Mr. Melki, who derided the idea that giving the vote to those under 21 would do violence to electoral demographics. “They have been saying this for generations. If that is the case then those demographics will inevitable be changed three years from now, when those who are 18 will be 21.”

Ambassador Tanase called on the audience to be involved in the electoral system. When he arrived in Lebanon, he told the crowded auditorium, a country which “has a very educated population,” he was surprised to see that “after more than 20 years of the end of the 1975-1990 war, it was still without adequate power supply, and there was no electricity 24 hours.” This, he said, was in part due to the fact that the Lebanese had resigned themselves to the situation and needed to voice their concerns more clearly.

Prof. Messara, the only panelist to offer his remarks in French, argued that the Lebanese need to recognize more clearly that much of their conflicts, are in fact, the result of their willingness to allow outsiders to indulge in their affairs. Ideological rhetoric, he suggested, hides the real problems. “There is too much ideology and empty rhetoric in the way conflicts and their history are interpreted in Lebanon.” One suggestion, he offered, was for historians of Lebanon to adopt a more practical approach to their writings where they evaluate the quantifiable positive or negative consequences of a historical action, rather than its ideological significance.

The author of the quote at the top of this article, former MP Boulos, argued that among the many things the Lebanese should be proud of is their political system, which is structured around its many sects. The Syrians, he suggested, could do very well to learn from Lebanon and develop a system that does the same thing. Some of the other panelists could be seen shaking their heads in disapproval. ​​
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