Early parliamentary elections will not provide the desired transition during this stage. Elections are based on distributing seats between majority and minority, but within the same system that we have been living under for decades. The focus of a real opposition must be on transitioning from this form of power to another – one based on a civil state that is potent and just. It is necessary to highlight that any form of elections reinforces the legitimacy of the political system and is only a way to modify those responsible within that system. Elections become meaningful when the legitimacy of the state is firmly established – when political parties make real choices in procedural sectoral, social, and economic policies, and voters react to these policies according to their self-interests. Elections under the current sectarian system, on the other hand, are fruitless because they are nothing more than measures of leaders’ popularity within a sect and across sects. As such, elections are void of any true public politics and are simply assemblies of identities and fear-mongering, as are the governments themselves (so called “national unity” governments). In fact, the authorities do not hold elections until they are certain of their outcome.

Participating in elections, however, can be justified when it is to publicly endorse a clear alternative political project developed by a specific, political alliance. Thus, elections would demonstrate the support for that clear project. This avenue, however, requires time to bear fruit, and in the face of the current crisis, we do not have the luxury of time. More importantly, this avenue calls for clarity in political discourse while the majority of those that claim to be part of the opposition are not yet ready for it, either because they shirk their responsibilities or because they have ambitions for certain political positions.

The essence of the civil state is to deal with its citizens without any mediation. Mediation in our region of the world differs between military mediation, national and ethnic mediation, or sectarian mediation, as in Lebanon. Sectarianism is nothing but a societal formation that historical paths may create, crystallize, and eliminate. Its formation and development may take different shapes in its roles and expressions, depending on historical conditions. Thus the civil state derives its legitimacy from its direct relationship with the citizen and adopts upon its founding a societal formation different from what we know now.

Our proposal pertaining to the separation between the nation inside and outside revolves around the government establishing serious relations with the outside as an outsider. Especially in a small country, the transition that the crisis imposes on those who want to overcome its effects and causes requires establishing steady economic relations with countries that are not hostile to us and do not seek to fragment our society and threaten the legitimacy of our authority. The economy is political by nature.

We are well aware that the Lebanese who are engaged in sectarian politics and especially sectarian leaders cannot envision a state that deals with the outside as an outsider in the same way that they cannot imagine that the inside is an actual society. Sectarian politics is essentially a rejection of societal reality and of the notion of state without which notions of outside and inside are meaningless.

Establishing a State is a priority that is justified by the current local, regional, and international juncture at this point in history. Now and here, a State is a functional necessity to preserve our society. It is acknowledged that a State is a mere circumstantial and situational arrangement, which can take different forms that vary in terms of stability, efficiency and value. The adaptation of such an arrangement lies at the heart of any political action.

The term “reforms” insinuates that there is a regime that was put in place to serve the general interest, that was able, at certain times, to prove its capability of achieving its purpose, thus demonstrating its success. Today, this regime is no longer capable of successfully performing its duty, which makes it unable to achieve the goals for which it was created.

Many have suggested reforming the regime to treat the causes that led to its failure, so that it can replicate former successes. But the truth is, that today’s regime of sectarian leaders’ coalition was never ever able, in any past experience, to secure the public’s interest, due to a structural and operational flaw in the way this system was built. It was never a people or mismanagement issue, but an issue with the system, that cannot operate otherwise. Therefore, any illusionary success, that some thought was achieved, was fake, and people settled with it to bring a 15-year civil war to an end, fearing it to resume. People were bribed with undue benefits and a luxury lifestyle.

That is exactly why we are not looking to reform the current system, because we deem it irreparable and unreformable. We should however cease the opportunity of this system’s collapse to change it for the better. Hence the necessity of a decisive contribution to an alternative which will impose a transfer of power that will build a just, democratic and civil state capable of protecting the entire society by securing public interest.

In brief, effective reform does not lie in changing the players or patching gaps, but rather in a fundamental change of the rules of the game touching the very structure of the system.

The régime, which was established during the civil war and operated from the nineties to the present day, vitally depends on the influx of enough foreign currencies i.e. US dollars. These reserves, accumulated over the years, are running out. Conditions for a sufficient and sustainable influx of more dollars are no longer available. This means that the fuel that drives the existing system has run out, so how can this wheel keep on turning? From here, change is unavoidable, not because we want it, but because the old system can no longer survive.

Since change is unavoidable, what can we expect? There are two options.

  • The worst scenario, which is the one we are currently witnessing, is for the society to adapt, which ultimately would extend the life of the coalition of sectarian leaders. This would push a large portion of the productive class in this society, mainly the youth, to emigrate. The domestic consumption of dollars would shrink and its influx would be reinforced again by the emigrants sending money to support their families back home. Society would continue to gradually erode until a balance is reached to secure the continuity of the régime in its current form. Society would be wrecked for a long time, without any chance for it to recover for decades.
  • The second option is for society to be seen as a priority that must be protected and defended. For this to happen, change has to target the structure of the system itself. The power would be transferred from the coalition of sectarian leaders to the only entity that is functionally capable of defending the society, the whole society, which is the state.

We, at Citizens in a State, are aware that change is unavoidable, and therefore our goal is to influence its outcome, and this contribution must be decisive. Here and now, any step, any position, any confrontation action that we take must serve the purpose of this contribution, which is to build a civil, democratic, just and potent state. The opportunity for change is favorable, rather historical, and may not come around again, and the need for the establishment of a state that protects our threatened society, is pressing. Any losses affecting society will not be recoverable, but these losses can be turned into sacrifices whenever they are aimed at building a state.

The sectarian taïfas leaders are neither absolutely evil nor are they angels, they are just prisoners of their roles especially within their sub-group, who are citizens who consider their relationship with the state should be mediated by the sectarian taïfa group. These leaders depend on vertically divided entities that include in their ranks all segments of society, with contradictory interests.  Therefore, it is impossible for any leader, regardless of his career and his professional and political experience, to take any public interest decision, any decision that may cause a rift within his sectarian taïfa between the beneficiary of the decision and those penalized. From here, we see that the leader is seeking two goals: 1) satisfying all segments of his sectarian taïfa, thus avoiding taking any decision, in addition to 2) establishing a sense of reassurance for them, i.e. spreading a firm feeling that he is able to defend their interests from the other side and getting them as much available resources as possible.

There is no state in Lebanon, there is a coalition of sectarian taïfa leaders ruling the country. Each sectarian taïfa leader legitimates the other and each one has the veto power and the ability to paralyze the government and the decision-making process at the state level. None of the sectarian taïfa leaders is interested in gaining support in the other sectarian taïfas , each one focuses on increasing his popularity within his sectarian taïfa at the expense of other sectarian taïfas. Therefore, they have a complementary role as this behavior strengthens the sectarian divide. This precludes them from getting out of this game, so whoever decides to play outside the existing rules collides with the interests of all the leaders of the sectarian taïfas, and runs a risk of losing his leadership over his own sectarian taïfa.

During the civil war, sectarian taïfas parties established a system of quotas whereby each party that controlled a separate geographical area took over parts of state institutions. This privilege, considered as a spoil of war, became a symbol for the sectarian taïfa leaders, founding their societal relationships. Retaining those spoils became a priority for them in their decision making process.

In the exceptional situation we live in, where the viability conditions of the existing system have vanished, it becomes impossible for involved leaders to make decisions related to the disaster because it requires them to make cross-sectarian choices. Any decision they make will harm the interests of one social group in favor of another. They cannot afford conflicts with part of their sectarian taïfa that would jeopardize the structure of relationships inherited from the war and they will not get additional support from the favored group in the other sectarian taïfas.

This slogan was coined during the popular uprising of 17 October 2019. It expressed protest over socio economic deterioration, and anger towards the whole ruling class (All of Them). While this liberated public discourse from the fake opposition between “March, 8 coalition” and “March, 14 coalition”, claiming that they were partners in crime, it reflected two potential misconceptions:

  • It gave the impression that the problem is one of people (them) rather than the system. This opened the door for positions like “Bahaa is better than Saad”, or « isn’t Mustafa Adib the solution » or “Riad Salameh needs to be held accountable”. It also wrongly implied that the problem could be solved by simply replacing “them” with a technocratic government.
  • Blaming “them” also meant that we absolve ourselves from personal responsibility when in reality all of us, as a society, bear responsibility for the course leading to the current situation.
Diligent reality assessment through a factual analysis is the basis for a political organization taking personal responsibility.