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Dossier – Interview with a politician: Roger Eddé

Article en anglais

Rédigé le 18/04/2012 (dernière modification le 18/04/2012)

How would you imagine an exclusive interview with a Lebanese politician who participated in the creation of many of the international decision-making conferences around the world? What would the man who was able to foretell the fall of the Berlin wall, and many other important facts years ahead, expect for his own country and beyond? The president of Assalam (Peace) Party, Roger Eddé perceives what could officially be referred to as the United States of Lebanon as the model of choice for what he calls home and for Syria and other Arab countries after the Arab Spring.

Photo (C) Roger Eddé
Photo (C) Roger Eddé
podcast_roger_edde_1.mp3 Podcast_Roger_Edde.mp3  (522.05 Ko)

Lebanon has always been a lab and shall be as such for what would be in the aftermath of the Arab Muslim Spring because in every Arab Muslim country there are minorities, tribes, and different ethnic groups – in other words, communities within the nation state. A nation state in the Arab Muslim countries and in North Africa is typically a state without a homogeneous identity. How can we proceed with the architecture of a democracy that can be reassuring at the same time and allowing the maintenance of the unity of the nation state? This may not be necessary, according to Roger Eddé, as we have seen in the case of Czechoslovakia that a friendly divorce can be better than a difficult marriage and we have it in life everyday all around the word.

Failure of the melting pot

The Lebanese experience has been, since the creation of the nation state in the early twenty century, that Lebanese were unable to create a melting pot, a Lebanese identity that can overcome the communities whether they are confessional or ethnic (Armenians, Kurds). Lebanese have been living this negative experience of being unable to create a real citizenry because of permanent conflict even between the domineering groups as to who would dominate the nation state. We have been in a permanent cold civil war that broke up into a heated civil war throughout our modern state, and we have been using the state as a tool of servicing the dominant communities in a permanent blackmail, a national blackmail where when minorities, or the non-domineering communities, dominated others felt alienated.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely

These are facts of history in Lebanon, but they are not different from the case of any other Arab Muslim country. This is what happens every time there is a dictatorship because dictatorships can force unity at the expense of liberties, prosperity, democracy, and the advancement of the quality of life of the human being. That doesn’t fit the best interest of the people because those who have absolute power are naturally corrupt or they become absolutely corrupt. The people, including those in the domineering community, suffer from that dominating group pretending to defend the community carrying arms or carrying the hardcore speech against other communities.

The proposed solution

I have spoken and written about it as it applies to Lebanon and Syria, but it applies to almost everywhere that we cannot imagine the advancement of our people in the twenty first century essentially because of an international cultural conflict. We need to dismantle and then reconstruct the nation state. We also need to do the same for the relationship between our state and other states. Looking at it globally the most successful story of a melting pot is the United States of America because it has a system that protects regional identities and allows for an executive president elected by the whole nation in a direct election. I think the federal system America has practiced can allow Lebanon, as well as Syria and other countries, to make the choice of citizenry and non-denominational power sharing. This system allows having a governor with more authority within his own State as compared to the federal president himself, which allows for wide negotiations all around the government. It also allows for the line-item veto which entitles the president to veto one item in a law rather than vetoing the whole law.

The American model

The president can be governing with a majority from other parties. This is what occurred with President George W. Bush and President Reagan and moved America from being racist to a USA having a president not born from a Christian father and from an African-American origin (a group previously referred to as slaves). Catholics were able to reach presidency while it was unthinkable even in the constitution where only white Protestants were entitled to this rank. In addition, people gained political and economic liberties.

Applying the model

When I talk about communities I speak from a geographic perspective. Look at Afghanistan where the people are mostly Muslims. The country follows a division through tribal identity which led to their misery. This tribal identity was stronger than the religious belonging (Shiite) in the area which made a tribal group called Hazar hate Iranians and vice versa because they come from a different tribal and ethnic background.
The same applies to Lebanon. I suggest going back to the history of the country. When it became the greater Lebanon, 4 regions were created plus Beirut which was attached to the Ottoman Empire (not part of Lebanon). Beirut grew bigger on the expense of the 4 regions while Mount Lebanon remained the basic core of the country with its different confessions having a special identity as compared to other areas. I would divide to small States (2 – 3) the greater Beirut and every one of the 4 Caza. And to keep a balance, I would divide Mount Lebanon to 8 States. The first advantage of this approach, according to Mr. Eddé, is that partition becomes impossible and unnecessary like in the case of the United Arab Emirates who have interest to maintain their federation. Through my suggestion, we will be enforcing the country to be united rather than partitioning the country after the war like what happened in Sudan, in Yugoslavia, and what may happen in Syria that seems to be rapidly moving to the Yugoslavian option – a civil war leading to the partition of the country. It’s an endless partition that would be filled with a lot of blood. Mr. Eddé’s project is based on the fact that Lebanese people have had the experience of civil war and have seen what happened in the nations around their country. He considers his model to be the model to utilize in the emerging Arab democracies after the Arab Spring. For me, that would be the Arab Spring. As for my Lebanese Spring, it would be a Lebanon in permanent peace in place of a Lebanon in permanent war. It would need to have a historical compromise among the people. It is about an exchange of the confessional system for a federal non denominational one utilizing the USA model with a regional power like that in an American State. There would be a real division of labor between the local and the federal government. The federal authorities will coordinate security issues like the FBI does in the USA. There will be no double taxation.

Why not the Swiss model?

Mr. Eddé argues that the Swiss model can run the risk of partition because with the canton system and without a solid federal system with a president elected by the people there might be a risk, especially that Switzerland can be in absolute neutrality which is difficult for Lebanon to achieve.
And when it comes to military affairs, Lebanon can abide by the Austrian model, according the interviewee. This would mean that Lebanon cannot be used by any adversary for the purpose of war even if the nation can have its preferences in any regional or global conflict. Preferences are our political right, but military siding is not. I would thus make Lebanon neutral as a territory. That will help resolve many problems and allow for more flexibility in international alliances.

The United States of Lebanon

First, the president is elected by representatives in an equal number from every State. This would make numbers and a war for democracy irrelevant.
Second, the Members of Parliament (MPs) are elected in every State and the parliament of the State will have those MPs plus the heads of municipalities and their vice presidents. This will have created an elected local representation in addition to the MPs. The elected local MPs will become members of the national parliament or congress. It’s a link insuring continuity rather than having opposing powers in the federal government. There will be no more prime minister. This would prevent a fight between Sunni and Shiite for that position and there will be no exclusivity for the Maronites over presidency. This might take time, but the people will eventually feel that they are becoming Lebanese citizens more than regional denominational followers which will make it possible to elect any Lebanese citizen to become a president, just like what has been happening in the USA. The change that occurred in the USA was dramatic moving from slavery and exclusivity of presidency for protestants to an election where rivals where Catholics, Mormons and a black. This means the melting pot has succeeded to make a difference even though it took them, as a first step, 170 years to elect Kennedy who was a catholic. That change can only be a good example to follow in the twenty first century.

The arguments of Roger Eddé include that there will be more political and economical liberties exercised because such a system empowers every individual who is participating in the decision making process without any obligation of any kind except his or her convictions. The person will feel his own freedom. The culture of liberty will make people more creative and entrepreneurial. Historically, we were illegally using and abusing those liberties because of the absence of government and this is how we survived the almost forty years of war. What I am promoting is a totally different institutional kind of liberty, which will prevent Hezbollah from carrying arms and thinking about taking over the country.

You may get to see Mr. Roger Eddé in an interview below about the Special Tribunal for Lebanon

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