x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Draft bill drives the divide in Lebanon

The law lowering the legal voting age from 21 to 18, which was debated in the Lebanese parliament, reflected again the issue of sectarianism and the polarisation in Lebanese politics, observed Waleed Noyahed in an opinion piece in the Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat.

The law lowering the legal voting age from 21 to 18, which was debated in the Lebanese parliament, reflected again the issue of sectarianism and the polarisation in Lebanese politics, observed Waleed Noyahed in an opinion piece in the Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat. The debate called into question the problem of preserving the quota system, which is in place to ensure political coexistence between different sects.

Most Shiite parliamentarians backed the proposal, while the majority of their Christian counterparts opposed it. The greater part of Sunni and Druze representatives abstained from voting. This does not reflect the political diversity of Lebanon, as much as it points to a growing fear among politicians of a shift in public opinion that can break the sectarian balance, and ultimately lead to the formation of a ruling majority based not on the quota system.

The fears of such a likelihood motivated the Michel Aoun bloc, the Lebanese army and Christian parliamentarians to stand together against the draft bill, because it privileges one sect in both municipal and legislative elections. Conflict between the demographic-sectarian quota systems and democracy keeps recurring in Lebanon's political life, a crisis that is less likely to help in developing state institutions or ending persistent polarisation. Similarly, the state cannot grow and be proactive if the quota principles remain the most determinant factor in the political landscape.

"Iraqis standing today at a crossroads, either to move on towards peace and prosperity, or reproduce the sectarian chaos that marked the past years. The upcoming elections next month are supposed to bring in an independent government that can have either effects in the region," wrote Hazem Mubaydheen in a comment piece for the Jordanian newspaper Al Rai.

As expected, the campaign deepened the sectarian divisions following a row over the exclusion of some candidates on grounds of their links with the Baath party. It is also expected that despair resulting from corruption and threats by al Qa'eda to carry out attacks on election day would cause many to abstain from voting. So even though the elections are less likely to yield a new and comprehensive political system, they remain an essential step to lay the foundation for some change. Many hope for them to be the start of political reconciliation.

The present political environment does not encourage the victory of one list; thus, there will be a need to rely on a system of coalitions to lead the country. It is most likely that this time political leaders will find new interests to unite them other than sectarianism. It is feared that the new government will find itself caught again in a new kind of conflict between political forces to the detriment of national interests.

Reccip Erdogan's government has ruled Turkey for seven years, but it has not succeeded in broadening the base of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) among secularists, remarked Elyas Harfoush in an opinion piece for the London-based newspaper Al Hayat. Turkish political life has witnessed a continuous crisis between the army and Islamic political movements under different names. The army has continuously remained influential and has had the upper hand over politics.

Although the military denies any link to the attempted coup of 2003, the present crisis announces, however, a lack of trust between the executive power and the military. The government accuses the army of preparing a coup, while the military blames the government for leading Turkey away from the principles on which it was established. Turkey is thus divided between two sections: those who consider the army the biggest obstacle to consolidating democracy and those who believe that the accession of the AKP to power is a blow to the secular system founded by Kemal Ataturk.

If mutual mistrust continues, the government will not be able to implement its reforms to enforce the rule of law without the support of the army. It is worth mentioning that throughout the history of modern Turkey, this apparatus was decisive in restoring order, and enabling the government to undertake its duties.

In a comment article for the UAE newspaper daily Al Bayan, Maysa Ghadeer discussed the crisis between the health insurance companies and their private clients after the latter increased their prices. Both parties refuse to cover unplanned additional costs. It was recently reported that health insurance policies increased from 20 to 25 per cent as of February. Insurers claim that this came after private hospitals and clinics increased the price rates of their medical services by 25 to 45 per cent. This means companies providing medical insurance to their employees will face a rise in cost that is not estimated in advance. "We expected the competent authorities would have devised the appropriate solutions to address the root of the problem caused by the private medical sector, which seems to increase prices at its own will without any procedure that preserve the rights of patients," she wrote.

"Here I am suggesting the possibility to determine the price of these services according to a specific mechanism that ensures the rights of both patients and hospitals." * Digest compiled by Mostapha Elmouloudi melmouloudi@thenational.ae