Many of those who criticize our movement’s political program point out the absence of a popular mandate obtained through elections which would give it, in their point of view, a certain legitimacy. In reality, elections are nothing but a means by which the regime simulates an engagement of the people in the process of renewal of its own legitimacy. Any actual change in the socio-political regime is the result of both the collapse of a certain authority, and the formation of a new political alternative.

For example, did the government of Hassan Diab enjoy any legitimacy? Except for some protests, a majority of the Lebanese accepted this government that had no political project, and that took effective decisions, such as . halting the payment of Eurobonds, and the declaration of a state of emergency. Its legitimacy stems from the legitimacy of the sectarian leaders who formed it or accepted it.

The formation of the transitional government is in itself the implementation of the transfer of legitimacy and authority from the sectarian leaders to the civil state, embodied by this government, and legitimized from the moment of its creation, if there is no popular opposition to it.

The transitional government will have a mandate of 18 months to establish the legitimacy on which it was formed – that is, the legitimacy of the civil state – through its effectiveness in managing the transitional period.

The government’s legislative prerogatives represent the necessary tool management of the transitional period. This transfer of power can only be achieved after a successful negotiation between the sectarian leaders and the party that has formulated a clear alternative political project. This party also needs to have the necessary knowledge, courage, and freedom of decision.

The transitional government will only be in power for a specific period of time (18 months), during which it will have exceptional legislative powers. Its main objective will be managing the cursed legacy of sectarian quotas (i.e., controlling the effects of bankruptcy), thereby saving society in its entirety, and establishing the legitimacy of the civil state.

An independent transitional government needs legislative prerogatives to avoid the profound impotency of the sectarian regime.

The idea of a government with legislative prerogatives is not the invention of Citizens in a State, nor is it new in Lebanon, but actually quite the opposite. The most prominent examples are the governments of the Fouad Chehab Presidency which were both presided over by Rasheed Karami. These governments established, through legislative decrees, the most prominent State institutions, such as the social security, the Employees’ Law, the Credit Law, the Civil Service Council Law, the Central Inspection and the Lebanese University. Some other governments have also been granted legislative prerogatives in the past:

  1. Khaled Chéhab (1952 – 1953)
  2. Sami el Solh (1954)
  3. Salim Al Hoss (1976 – 1977)
  4. Chafik Al Wazzan (1982 – 1983)
  5. Rasheed Karami (1984 – 1985)

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Our aim as a movement is to ensure a transition from a socio-political system based on an obsolete coalition of sectarian leaders, to a new system in which Lebanese are treated as citizens with equal rights. This will only be possible with the establishment of a fully legitimate and competent state, meaning a civil state.

We believe that the current phase is a transitional one by nature. Indeed, the economic and financial collapse, and the huge losses that have been accumulated over the years resulted in the fall of the system of societal relations, which was built on many illusions such as the fixed exchange rate of the Lebanese Pound, the inevitability of immigration, the ever-increasing price of properties, sectarianism being eternal, the fallacious proverb affirming that “the power of Lebanon is in its weakness”, and others.

To highlight a few examples; clientelism and corruption in Lebanon are not the result of individual actions, but rather a web of relations centered around buying people’s loyalties and silence in exchange for benefits, positions, and privileges. If those in power lose their source of influence, such as the ability to hire and distribute benefits, the clientelist relationship dissipates and the regime will lose its power.

With the collapse of the economy and the heavy losses the society is enduring, the current power structure has come to an end. Indeed, the sectarian parties are losing their ability to control resources and bribe society, as they are not capable of attracting or borrowing more money. We are therefore automatically in a transitional phase in which the structure of relations is being reshaped.

The transition is undeniably happening. The question for every Lebanese today is: will we accept to once again be passively exploited by those who use sectarian identities and slogans, or will we seek to actively take part in this transition? In practice, we seek to manage this transitional period to avoid a complete breakdown of society. We strive to move from a set of clientelist relations justified by sectarian logic, to the legitimacy of a civil state that deals with society as citizens with equal rights and duties.

As the socio-political order collapses, so too do the decades long illusions to which people had clung to, thus causing a loss of all the social values that their lives had been built on. In such moments, refusing and opposing the regime is enough. When society moves into the unknown, its people will hold on to what they know. As such, the presentation of a clear conception of a new socio-political order is a necessary prerequisite for any serious opposition, whether a political party, a coalition, or a united opposition front.

So far, we have not succeeded in convincing opposition parties and groups of the importance of articulating a vision, and working to form an alternative responsible for managing the transitional period. Communication between groups is limited to field coordination, and therefore remains less than people’s expectations, and less than what is needed to start making a difference.

Over the past five years, “Citizens in a State” have made numerous attempts to rally opposition forces around a clear political project:

  • Before the municipal elections in 2016 and the subsequent establishment of the movement, “Citizens in a State” was first envisioned as a common ground for opposition groups aiming to form an alternative to a regime that was already clearly stumbling. But the attempt failed and was overshadowed by narrow considerations that did not allow the formation of this political alternative,
  • In anticipation of the last parliamentary elections, we considered the disagreements of the ruling political parties over the electoral law as an opportunity to enact a law that would establish the legitimacy of the civil state, without falling to the pressures that influence the sectarian parties. We made a new attempt to gather opposition forces around a clear political proposal through the “Civil State” campaign. 43 public figures have participated in this campaign, the majority of whom were from the prominent opposition groups, while the rest were credible political, social, and media figures,
  • The “Civil State” campaign was an essential step to unite a number of groups in a new effort to craft a political alternative. The Citizens in a State Movement played a key role in its formation and the coalition was supposed to yield candidates who were committed to the project. Unfortunately, the need for clarity was overshadowed by the focus on unification, and many parties preferred to expand the front into an electoral alliance that lost political clarity. This was evident in the results, and the alliance disintegrated with the end of the elections,
  • When our recurrent warnings turned into reality with the October uprising, we considered this another opportunity to gather groups ready to take responsibility of the management of the transition, based on a political project, but the Front has until now, failed to take shape.

Nevertheless, we will not stop our efforts to unite the opposition groups over a clear political project. However, we must also strengthen the movement, in terms of support and organization, to raise its ability to confront and influence, as well as turning the balance of power in our favor, in order to be able impose our political project in the face of the sectarian leaders.

To make our position clear, it is worthwhile to look into the movement’s methodology and approach to political action. “Citizens in a State” believes that the socio-political regime we’re trying to change, is not static, as it has the potential to overcome internal contradictions and external pressures within certain limits. Indeed, until now, it has managed to absorb the waste crisis, as well as the October uprising, despite international and regional shifts. Therefore, the change cannot be the result of technical work based on so-called business plans and programs, but rather the consequence of organized political confrontation aimed at predicting and utilizing these internal contradictions and external pressures, to our favor.

Therefore, “Citizens in a State” is committed to a clear, rigorous approach, as well as a pragmatic, effective, and realistic strategy concerning the choice of spaces of action.

The spaces that the movement chose to participate in since its founding in 2016, are the following:

  • The Municipal Elections, to present an alternative political project, at a time when the regime in power started to feel cornered by the financial pressures and preoccupied with internal disagreements,
  • The Parliamentary Elections Law: by launching the “Civil State” Campaign through which the movement tried to start building alliances, as well as trying to infiltrate the political system while the different actors were still unable to agree on an election law.
  • The Parliamentary Elections, which was a chance to breach the expected, previously agreed-on results, after the existing political actors had charted a convenient electoral law,
  • The Free Trade and Teachers Unions Solidarity Funds, where the movement worked on pushing for measures to preserve their savings, pressure the regime, and secure a seat at the negotiation table when the expected economic crisis would begin,
  • Forming a united opposition centered around a clear project to transform the October Uprising into a political force to implement the project,
  • Working with military retirees in particular, as well as civil service retirees, in order to pressure the régime after their pension’s value disappears.

After encountering major difficulties while trying to form a united political front, we determined that building our own potential and knowledge is the best strategy in this delicate phase, while at the same time, continuing to monitor shifts at the national and international levels. We are also witnessing that a number of prominent, credible, figures are breaking away from the system in search of an alternative, as well as signs of a shift in the attitude of some external powers towards the sectarian leaders. Today, we are constantly trying to impact these events to benefit from them and improve the chances of the implementation of our project.

The act of demanding is an implicit recognition of the legitimacy of the existing regime. We consider that they are incapable of making any decision, whether bad or good. As such, we see no use in demanding any reforms from a regime unable to implement any. The only alternative we believe in, is to impose negotiations on a peaceful transition of power.

Since the end of the Lebanese civil war, the people and sectarian leaders have been living an illusion. An illusion of a flourishing economy, of the inevitability of immigration, of the diaspora money that the banking system attracts, of the stable Lebanese pound exchange rate, of the stability of constitutional institutions, coexistence, civil peace, and, finally, but most important, of the indefectible power of these leaders.

The collapse of this illusion meant the end of the tools that the sectarian leaders used over the last 30 years, to bribe and control society. Indeed, the worse the situation gets, the greater the chances of defections, and the more steadily the fall of the existing power system. The sectarian leaders are incapable of dealing with this situation because as it is the opposite of the role they have played for years. It is left to those who take the responsibility today, to distribute losses while the regime had built their power by distributing the spoils.

Based on this reading of the situation, the leaders face intense internal and external pressure:

Internal pressures:

Any decision by leaders today, in the context of an intense crisis with a constant accumulation of losses, will harm the interests of one group and relatively safeguard the interests of another. This kind of decision, if taken by the leader of one sect, will cause him to lose the support of members of his own sect, even if he takes into account their interests, without gaining the support of members of another sect. Thus, the sectarian leaders are unable to manage the crisis because they are prisoners of their sectarian roles. The country’s dire financial and social situation is therefore putting pressure on them. While it is true that they are warlords, of the decision of starting a new war or risking the partition of the country, is not a decision they can take lightly. We must not forget that they have experienced war, and they know very well that preceding leaders were assassinated or lost family members. They are fully aware that any internal disturbances can cause them immediate personal danger. All they are doing today, because of this incapacity, is feeding disputes and accusing each other, which increases sectarian tensions and raises the level of unwanted security risks.

External pressure:

Some assume that any outside intervention in Lebanon aims to restore the system as it was, at a time when regional and international countries aim to either maintain a minimum level of stability, even at the expense of citizens’ basic standard of living, or to use Lebanon as a bargaining chip in their conflicts. In both cases, the sectarian leaders have no influence over what is decided abroad, although they are very concerned about what might come out of any agreement. They will therefore seek affiliations with whomever they can, in order to safeguard their power.

We, as a movement, deal with the outside world based on the fact that Lebanon is a State. Enmity is an exceptional case between states because of the serious consequences it engenders. Lebanon is in a state of war with the Zionist project because the latter is designed to undermine our society and the foundations of the Civil State. Lebanon’s relations with other countries should be based on different levels of convergence or divergence of interests. Therefore, in our communication with the different regional and international actors, we carefully take into consideration their interests while reiterating clearly our vision considering the needs of the Lebanese society, which is a form of negotiation in itself.

The quid pro quo that is being offered today to the sectarian leaders is very clear. Their first option is to take the risk of losing everything, by continuing to deny their inability, fuelling internal dissension and drawing in foreign interventions. Their second option is to negotiate the loss of some of the power and influence they have accumulated in order to ensure their survival in political life within a state that enjoys full civil legitimacy. This is only possible if they accept relinquishing power during a transitional period according to a well-defined project that may succeed or fail. Our role, of course, is to enhance the chances of success of this transitional period.

The regime’s influence extends beyond the political elite, sectarian leaders, or certain social classes, and is a web of relations embedded within society. Any change in a socio-authoritarian system, if not imposed from the outside by force, is always the result of a negotiation between different parties that make up the society. This negotiation can be peaceful if the guardians of the system deal with the situation rationally and feel a certain sense of responsibility. Otherwise, the negotiation will only take place afterwards to end a phase of chaos and conflict. Therefore, our focus today should be on imposing a peaceful negotiation with these leaders, who still enjoy significant popular support, rather than pushing irresponsibly towards chaos that will allow sectarian entities, and not only their current leaders, to control the remnants of our society.

The last census of residents in Lebanon was conducted in 1932, under the French mandate.

The state has been unaware of the true number of residents and only estimates it from time to time. The issue of COVID vaccination showed the importance of such a census. Under the pretext of the “sectarian pact”, the sectarian regime has avoided population censuses because it poses a threat to the continuity of their system. Therefore, they have ignored the true number of residents, their sex, age, geographic distribution, nationalities, professions, and sources of income. The census will include all Lebanese emigres for better political representation, linked to places of residence instead of familial and sectarian ties. The census will also provide benefits, such as universal health coverage, to all residents and will allow the taxation of the income of all residents, whether earned in Lebanon or abroad.

The distribution of losses must be governed by a political will directed towards clear socio-economic goals. Practically, universal health coverage and free education will be the first measures taken in this regard. Providing them as rights for residents will contribute to breaking the clientelistic networks (concerning schools, hospitals, access to medicine, etc.) upheld by the sectarian parties. This will prepare for the building of a productive economy, not dependent on the inflow of deposits to finance consumption, and will limit the emigration of the Lebanese, especially those that are economically productive.