The bright side to the Lebanese October revolution

By Claude Salhani

The popular demonstrations in Lebanon that began with euphoria and hope and forced the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri are unlikely to unfold the way the crowds wish.

Drastic changes in the political and social structure of Lebanon, which is what is needed if the demands of the people are to be met, are highly unlikely.

Meaning that the revolution is dead? No, far from it. The revolution is in its infancy. It is only starting. A revolution is a continuous movement. It is ongoing. It is perpetual, otherwise it dies.

It was not only residents of Beirut taking to the streets — so, too, did people in cities around the country. They protested in Sidon, in Tripoli, Tyre and many other locations.

It is likely that some changes will be introduced. However, the demonstrators will soon realise that not all of their demands will be accepted by the establishment. Much to the displeasure of the establishment, it will soon realise that it has no choice but to adapt to the new realities.

Lebanon’s traditional leadership, based along confessional and sectarian — almost tribal-clannish — lines reflecting a quasi-medieval social structure, has led the country to the brink of economic disaster, almost reaching the level of a failed state. This cannot go on.

It is inevitable that some changes as demanded by demonstrators over the last month are going to be met but not all the demands will be addressed and many promises will be broken.

However, in typical Lebanese manner, the president will appoint a new prime minister, who will introduce some new faces to the political arena and will retain some of the establishment’s defenders. Those may be second- or third-tier establishment people who will continue to serve their masters, rather than their country.

Lebanon’s revolution is unlikely to be successful in its first try. This must be seen as a multistep endeavour, which may take decades.

As with almost every major development in Lebanon since its independence, the crisis will have to be resolved through consensus.

There is, however, a bright side to the dark and murky waters of Lebanese politics and some changes to the Lebanese political scene are inevitable.

Many people in Lebanon are realising that, while they may not be as optimistic as they were in the early days of the protests, there may be a silver lining.

No matter whether the demonstrators succeed or fail, politicians will never again dare to steal with impunity as they have so frequently done in the past.

Flagrant disregard of laws and corruption simply because one is powerful enough to get away with it will not disappear entirely but changes of motion set out in the October revolution will make those with bad intentions think twice before committing similar crimes.

The real test — to see how many Lebanese have changed and just how much they have changed — will become apparent at the next elections.

Will the country continue to vote for the same people who took the nation to the brink of the economic meltdown or will they be faithful to the ideals of the October revolution and vote in new faces without the traditional requirement of belonging to a certain religion, group, sect or party?

If Lebanon aims to achieve a true level of democracy, it should strive to have its laws made applicable to all citizens and residents of the country. That includes the Hezbollah-dominated sectarian system of benefits, many of which smack of unfairness and corruption.

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