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The moment of truth

Oct 21,2019 - Last updated at Oct 21,2019

In a rare sign of unity, Lebanese are united against their political elite. It seems that the political elite and political parties have failed to be responsive to the growing and changing demands of the public. Lebanese politicians have been complicit with the political feudalism that has characterised Lebanon for decades. Therefore, their responsiveness has taken a nosedive over the years.

Seen in this way, the hundreds of thousands of Lebanese who are taking to the streets are not expressing their protest against the new tax the government sought to impose. As a matter of fact, Lebanese are expressing their lack of trust in the political elite. Explicit in their demonstrations is a need to overhaul the political system in such a way that would reflect positively on the daily life of people. All attempts to placate people and all pledges fell on deaf ears. To be sure, Lebanese are determined not to go to the pre-protest situation.

Strikingly, the Lebanese are not on their own. The Arab street, as manifested in the social media, supports the demands of demonstrators. The vast majority of posts and tweets say one line: Lebanese have the right to change and will win. Other Arab regimes should learn the lesson from the support of their people to the Lebanese people. The success of Lebanese to shake up things in Beirut may embolden others to do similar things. In many Arab countries, people experience even more difficult socio-economic conditions than in Lebanon. In Iraq, for instance, people are fed up with the political elite.

Interestingly enough, it is not about lack of resources. Of course, some governments justify their failure to deliver by citing the lack of natural resources. Indeed, Iraq has a lot of these resources and still it lacks good governance. Needless to say, blaming the regional conditions or the lack of resources will for sure not be taken seriously in years to come. As in Lebanon, people in many Arab countries feel that governments and political elite are the source of their poverty. I am not saying that we are witnessing round two of the Arab Spring. But, the Iraqis’ demonstrations and the Lebanese’ protests have the potential of creating a new dynamic in the region. People will again believe in the power of the street as the only means at peoples’ disposal.

The most important achievement of the recurrent protests in various Arab countries is the belief in the value of citizenship. In Lebanon, for instance, the political system was set up to create a balance of power between the country’s religious sects. This system has only entrenched political patronage at the expense of the unity of the country. It also pits people against each other along dividing sectarian lines.

In brief, the moment of truth has come. Citing external conspiracies or regional development as the reason for their failure may not work.

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