Prospects for Lebanese Democracy

As we near the one year anniversary of assasination of Rafiq Hariri (February 14th), Oussama Safa discusses the history of Lebanese consociationalism and Lebanon’s chances for democracy, in The Journal of Democracy.

As of this writing, moreover, the opposition’s most important demand is still waiting to be met: The world must know the truth about who murdered Rafiq Hariri. The final report of the international investigation into his killing is anxiously awaited in Beirut, for on this document hinges the future of stability in Lebanon. All indicators suggest that the UN investigative commission will produce evidence to corroborate the involvement in the crime of senior Syrian and Lebanese intelligence officers. Syria will have to deliver the officers named in the report first for investigation and then to an international tribunal that will most likely be set up for that purpose on neutral territory.

In sum, the Cedar Revolution remains half-finished. Revealing the truth about the Hariri assassination and then prosecuting those responsible for it will go a long way toward providing a sense of national satisfaction and security. Then there must follow a serious and comprehensive dialogue on the country’s future. This discussion must include all the various factions, plus civil society. Without this, the gains of March 14 and after may dissipate. Friends of democracy should hope to see civil society become a growing force. It is already one to be reckoned with, as can be seen in the way that politicians frequently refer to “the spirit of March 14” when discussing the need for political change.