Michel Sleiman, 2008-2014: The Legacy (Full)

Mr. Speaker, esteemed members of the parliament,

I would have been extremely delighted to begin this mandate with moments of joy; nevertheless, I am confident that our silence will be praised by the souls of our martyrs who are close to God Almighty, since this mandate will be laying the foundations for a new promising phase, for the citizens of our beloved country which is rising from this stumble, thanks to the Lebanese people’s awareness, their refusal to fall the victims of fratricide, and the efforts our loyal friends and brethren have undertaken to mitigate the effects of these unfortunate events and to eliminate their consequences.

Today, by taking the oath, I am calling upon you all, political parties and citizens, to start a new phase which title is Lebanon and the Lebanese people, where we commit ourselves to a national project agreed upon with a futuristic mentality in order to serve the interests of our homeland and prioritize them over our sectarian and confessional interests, and over all the others’ interests.

On the 25th of May 2008, when Michel Sleiman assumed his responsibilities as Lebanon’s new president, he gave an inaugural speech in front of the parliament.  The speech (This is the official English version) includes the president’s plan for the next six years, and the goals he plans on achieving before leaving office on the 25th of May 2014.

Today, the 25th of May 2014, is judgment day. You’ll find the whole speech below, in italics, with comments on what was achieved in order to fulfill the promises of 2008.

1. Activating the role of constitutional institutions

The desired political stability makes incumbent upon us to activate the role of the constitutional institutions where the political ideas and dissimilarities will be dealt with, in order to reach common denominators which secure the interests of the homeland and the people.

The political disagreement and the resulting constitutional problematic we have encountered should motivate us, not only to find the solutions to the problems that we might face in the future, but also to achieve the proper balance required between the competences and responsibilities in a way to enable the institutions and the Presidency of the Republic included to assume the role they are entrusted with.

Between the 25th Of May 2008 and the 25th of May 2014, the Lebanese president had 2191 days to rule. His first cabinet (Siniora) took a total of 79 days (25 May 2008 – 12 August 2008) to be formed and receive the vote of confidence. The second cabinet (Hariri) took a total of 187 days (7 June 2009 – election day, 10 December 2009) to be formed and receive the vote of confidence. The third cabinet (Mikati) took a total of 177 days (12 January 2011 – resignation of the M8 ministers, 7 July 2011) to be formed and receive the vote of confidence. The fourth cabinet (Salam) took a total of 364 days (22 March 2013 – Mikati’s resignation, 20 March 2014) to be formed and receive the vote of confidence. 79+187+177+364=807 days. 807/2191= 36%.

So to sum things up, 36% of Michel Sleiman’s time in power lacked a functioning executive power. Needless to say that the Lebanese parliament cannot legislate with no government in power, and cannot meet in summer, which means that during Sleiman’s 6 years, the parliament had a  maximum of 3 years to pass laws and amendments (around 50% of the time).

In his inaugural speech, Sleiman spoke of two things regarding the deadlock: 1) Activating the role of constitutional institutions, and 2) Finding solutions to the time-consuming deadlocks. Never in its whole history has Lebanon seen such time-consuming government formations. Tammam Salam and Najib Mikati both broke Rachid Karami’s 1969 record (7 months) in 2014 when they became the new record holders for tardiness in forming cabinet and acting as caretaker PM. The Lebanese parliament had been previously shut down by Berri for 17 Months (2007-2008) during the rule of the first Siniora cabinet, but relatively speaking, the parliament only stopped legislating at the very end of Lahoud’s mandate. The paralysis in the legislative branch was by far more pronounced during Sleiman’s tenure. The low productivity of the parliament is frightening: between June 2009 and March 2013, the parliament convened 21 times only, and voted laws 13 times out of 21. (The numbers are from the official parliamentary gazette, Al Hayat Al Niyabiya). Only 183 laws were voted (a very low number), and the vast majority of these laws are either useless or minor. And if you think that productivity increased after 2013, don’t. The parliament actually didn’t even meet to legislate for more than a year after the last session of 2013. Aslan min elo jlede.

And how was the president concerned with the demise of the constitutional institutions? The president has failed twice here. True, the president has little or no power concerning Lebanese politics. But he – unlike the popular hearsay- still has a lot of powers that he is not using. (1) The president had the power – according to article 33 of the constitution –  to “summon the Chamber to extraordinary sessions by a decree that specifies the dates of the opening and closing of the extraordinary sessions as well as the agenda.” In other words, the Lebanese president could have forced the parliament to meet in Summer – hence compensating  for wasted time. The deputies would’ve probably stayed home, but at least the president would have managed to expose them as lazy greedy elected officials. (2) The president could have pushed for a constitutional amendment setting a maximum of 60 days for a designated prime minister to form a cabinet. The Lebanese president is also one of the two individuals concerned with forming the government. Instead of wasting hundreds of days to form them, the president could have easily issued a deadline for the politicians to agree. Such maneuvers would have accelerated the process of policy making while making it easier. But no, it had to be 807 days.

2. Reform? What reform?

Lebanon, the country of mission, crossroad of civilizations and haven of pluralism, prompts us all to endeavor and engage ourselves in political, administrative, economic and security reforms. This will enable us to restore our country’s exemplary role on the international scene.
Lebanon has chosen to conform to the “Taef” agreement, and it is called to safeguard and consolidate this choice because it stems from a united national will, which is imperative to immunize any political decision.

Between 2008 and 2014, the country was supposed to witness political, administrative, economic and security reforms. Politically speaking, only one main reform was worked upon to achieve: the electoral law of 2008. However, this law plummeted in an exceptional way and was regarded as an epic failure by all the politicians – to the extent that elections were postponed in order to avoid it in 2013, and since the 2008 electoral law lacked most of the recommendations for reform suggested by the Boutros Commission  (such as official pre-printed ballots, partial proportional representation, a 30% women’s quota, an independent electoral commission, lowering the voting age from 21 to 18, out of country voting, access for people with special needs – only holding the election on one day and campaign finance and media regulations were taken into consideration) the 2008 electoral law can barely be considered as political reform. Even the new electoral proposed in 2012 was a very biased one.

Economically speaking, the country’s economy is today in one of its worst days. The 4 Lebanese cabinets under Michel Sleiman did not even make the effort to appoint a new general assembly for the economic and social council, whose mandate had expired in December 2002. On another more depressing and alarming note, the Lebanese parliament failed to pass the state’s budget since 2005, officially making Michel Sleiman the first president in the history of the republic to rule without an up-to-date budget. Again, the Lebanese president should not be judged for the failure of the parliament, but pressure from the president – like refusing to sign decrees and laws that are crucial for the well-being of Lebanon’s politicians before the parliament had passed a new budget – would have been a welcomed gesture. After all, the public debt has never been so high, public strikes – revealing popular discontent from the situation – have never been so frequent while the main economic reform championed by the parliament was a law destined to give a pay raise for the MPs. Further, another example of Michel Sleiman’s bad economic policies also appeared at the very  end of his mandate, when he didn’t sign the new rent law (approved by parliament) that provided a breakthrough regarding the stalemate between landlords and old tenants after more than three decades of deliberation.

3. National pacts

Furthermore, it is the national pact which is analogous to the constitution that joins the Lebanese together based on their own will. It proved to be stronger and far more sublime than any other external will.

Our external relations will be most effective and adequate if they were based on this pact, and thus the interests of Lebanon will be safeguarded and its particularity will be respected; this will enable our country to regain its effective role in the Arab world and the International Community as the living example of the coexistence between the cultures.

The national pact isn’t only about power sharing between Lebanon’s sects. What matters the most in this unwritten accord is the oath Lebanon’s main politicians took to abstain from inviting foreign intervention. While the pact is mostly viewed as a Muslim-Christian deal to split the country’s top posts,  it’s far more than that. Christians gave up French protection while Muslims gave up Pan Arab Union aspirations. The biggest irony in Michel Sleiman’s inaugural speech is that he was publicly praising the national pact  – a symbol of rejecting foreign interference – after being elected due to a Qatari mediated deal in Doha between France, U.S., Syria, and Iran. Even the constitution Michel Sleiman was taking an oath to protect actually carried the name of a Saudi city were it was written, 19 years earlier: Taef. The same regional players would also massively intervene in Lebanese politics during the next 6 years. The formation of governments did not happen without regional consensus and in the 2009 elections parties were massively funded by foreign states. No measure was taken between 2008 and 2012 to reduce foreign influence in Lebanese politics which finally resulted in the 2013 Syrian spillover.

4. Dialogue

Esteemed members of the parliament,

The people have placed their confidence in us to accomplish their ambitions, and not to confuse them with our political differences.

Probably the most dangerous threat which rose in the last years manifested itself in a political speech based on a treason language and mutual accusations, which paved the way to a state of divergence and discord especially among youth. This is the reason why it is essential to realize this fact, to work on fortifying our country and our coexistence through dialogue and to avoid transforming the country into an open arena for conflicts.

Although Sleiman was elected in a consensual deal, and although his 6 years in power were expected to be years of stability – Lebanon witnessed a revolution in 2005, an Israeli war in 2006, a political crisis in 2007 and a mini civil-war in 2008 – this stability was far from true. The problems appeared again with Syria’s civil war spillover in Lebanon since 2012, along with the 2 cabinet crisis of 2011 and 2013 and the comeback of assassinationsexplosions and regular clashes. Lebanon was far from being on the path of stability.

5. Rotation of what again?

The main characteristic of democracy resides in the rotation of power through free elections. It is certainly essential to adopt an electoral law which ensures the sound representation, consolidates the relation between the citizens and their representatives, and guarantees the mirroring of the choices and ambitions of the people, however, it is also important to accept the results of these elections and to respect the popular will.

Furthermore, the independence of the judicial authority consolidates justice which constitutes a safe haven to all people whose rights are violated, and secures a public order to all the public utilities. Hence, the effects of this independence will not be restricted to judgments rendering, since justice is safe hands, it is the pillar of all powers.

The main characteristic of democracy resides in the rotation of power through free elections. Furthermore, the independence of the judicial authority consolidates justice and secures a public order to all the public utilities.” The fun part? Exactly 5 years later, the Lebanese parliament decided that there was no need for free elections and rotation of power was too mainstream for a country such as Lebanon. The Lebanese president tried to stop the parliament by calling on Lebanon’s most prestigious judicial authority – the constitutional council – to convene and study the constitutionality of the 17-months extension. However, and since five of council judges are voted by the parliament and the other five are designated by the cabinet – because, as the president said, independence of  the judicial authority secures a public order to all the public utilities – the politically dependent council refused to convene and the extension of the parliament’s mandate became a de-facto decision to deal with.

The Lebanese president did what was expected of him, but there was more he could have done. The parliament voted the law extending its mandate on the 31st of May 2013. Elections were due in June. According to the Lebanese constitution, article 59 “The President of the Republic may adjourn the Chamber for a period not exceeding one month. He may not do so twice during the same session.” If the president had used this power the constitution gave him, the parliament wouldn’t have convened to vote the extension law, and the June elections would have happened anyway. Even if the parliament did manage to pass the law somehow, the president still could have refused to sign it and publish it into the official gazette for a certain period of time. And even if the president was eventually entitled by the constitution to sign it, he could have considered it unconstitutional – since the constitutional council was too coward to discuss it and since the constitution names the president as the “protector of the constitution” – which means that there was no possible way for the parliament’s extension law to pass if the president wanted to block it. Perhaps the president thought that an extension of the parliament’s mandate also meant an extension to his mandate or making his weak power look as surpassing a weaker parliament… Anyway, three things to remember from all this: no justice, no elections, no democracy. And with generals assuming more and more political responsibilities, Lebanon was starting to look like a military state. Perhaps the president should be admired for his decision to refuse any extension of his mandate – his two predecessors stayed 9 years in office – but then again, it was his constitutional duty to leave after 6 years.

The president’s idea of justice was also the appointment of Ashraf Rifi as justice minister – He was ironically being sued by the Lebanese government for refusing to abide to his superior’s orders.

6. “You are asking questions I am not really aware of, about details that are not really important.” (Gebran Bassil)

Moreover, national responsibility imposes upon us to encourage the youth generation capacities to accede to the public sector institutions in a way to prevent its decline and enables us to establish a younger and more competent administration. This responsibility also makes it inevitable to rely on the good choices and decisions, to consolidate the surveillance organisms and thus to reward the meritorious, set right the negligent, and remove the corrupted from office.

Michel Sleiman’s idea of removing the corrupted from office was accepting the appointment of  controversial figures in top posts. Fouad Siniora headed his first cabinet in 2008, and Gebran Bassil – infamous for answering the question of what happened with 34 Million dollars of public money with “You are asking questions I am not really aware of, about details that are not really important  remained a minister in all four cabinets. And that’s only the beginning of a long (very long) list of names. True, the ministers probably never represented Sleiman in the government, but he still had the upper hand in the cabinet formation, and vetoing the names of controversial politicians or even freezing the formation because of their nomination would have sent a big message. By the end of his term even the president himself was accused with several corruption scandals.

7. “The youth generation is our promising future

Gentlemen,

We will achieve the objective of dissipating the suspicions of the youth by building a country they will be proud to belong to; a country to rise by their capacities, expertise and participation in finding the solutions. Let us all allow them to guide us where we have failed, on the grounds that the youth generation resisted the occupation and terrorism and fought for the independence. The youth generation is our promising future, the wounds thickened them but made them stronger and some of them became handicapped and thus their rights should be guaranteed according to the laws and regulations.

The idea of encouraging the youth to accede to the public sector eventually ended up in the failure to pass a constitutional amendment giving the right to vote to Lebanese citizens between 18 and 21 and a Lebanese average age in the cabinet of…60 years old. Apparently 60 years and Sheikh El Chabeb are the same thing.

8. “Reformative educational policy in our schools

It is noteworthy to bear in mind the importance of a reformative educational policy in our schools and universities, a policy which will restore their significant role in this region.

Just to make things clear here, in 2008, the Lebanese history school books stopped in 1946 because there is no consensus on what happened next.  In 2014, the Lebanese history school books still stop in 1946 because there is no consensus on what happened next. But yeah, it is noteworthy to bear in mind the importance of a reformative educational policy in our schools. El mhemm el niyye.

9. Diaspora, Tourism, Economy Wel Shabeb

The Lebanese communities in the Diaspora are looking up and hoping to see their homeland rising from underneath the ashes once more and therefore we should acknowledge the rights of the Lebanese immigrants and proceed with the measures which will reinforce their adhesion and interaction with Lebanon. We should also resort to their capacities and engage them in a way that will make them feel as actual citizens and far more worthy of the Lebanese nationality than those who acquired it illegitimately.

Emerging from the state of recession and activating the economic cycle necessitate political and security stability as well as the patronage of the State to encourage the competitive production process. Thereupon, the plans of attracting investments and securing a friendly environment can fight against unemployment and immigration.

This fact also leads to the necessity of attaching great importance to our productive economy in the industrial, agricultural, and services fields and the importance of spreading the environmental culture and emphasizing on this country’s aspects of tourism.

For the president, acknowledging the rights of Lebanese immigrants was of high importance. Since  late 2008 Law gives expatriates the right to vote in the elections. However the elections didn’t happen, and even if they did happen, a failure of the Lebanese Foreign Ministry to raise awareness of the registration process would have made it impossible for Lebanese abroad to vote in the parliamentary elections.

Sleiman also made sure to visit every possible country in the world, in order to strengthen the ties with the Lebanese abroad. The trips – that costed the state 9 million dollars, more than it actually spends on industry, culture, or sports – were useless. One might understand visiting France once or twice like in 2008 and meeting foreign leaders. One might even understand the Cyprus, SyriaQatar, Iran and Saudi Arabia trips. The U.N. New York trips are a must. But Michel Sleiman ‘s trips were too many, and there was always useless leisure time. Armenia. Mexico. Brazil. Russia. Spain. Great Britain. Australia. The Czech Republic. Romania. Uruguay. Argentina. Switzerland. Canada. Italy. Vatican. Egypt. Germany. Jordan. Kuwait. Bahrain. U.A.E. Oman. Turkey. And there’s a lot more (West Africa..). Perhaps the president may do as he wishes, but for millions of times, the cabinet formation was delayed because the president was touring abroad. And that’s only an example of the trips’ repercussions. The whole point of these paragraphs in the inaugural speech was to bring the Lebanese back home and stimulate tourism, not send the president abroad. Although tourism in Lebanon flourished in 2010, tourist traffic at Beirut airport is down at 40% since 2010. Of course, the Syrian Civil war is to blame here, but there were lots of things that could have been done to save the tourism seasons. But instead of enacting reforms reinforcing stability and promoting tourism, politicians opted to travel abroad.

 10. Decentralization

The balanced development is an essential pillar of the country’s unity and the regime’s stability; we consider that the implementation of the wide administrative decentralization constitutes an important factor for this development to achieve the required reform in the field of social, economic and cultural disparity between the Lebanese regions. Furthermore, it is imperative to attach a great importance to the return of the displaced in a way to close this file permanently.

Michel Sleiman had 6 years to pass a decentralization law, and to apply it. He could have taken 1 year to prepare the draft, another to push for it in the parliament, and 4 other years to make sure it’s successfully implemented. But no, the draft law had to be presented to the parliament 1 month before he left office. You know, because one should take his time to implement crucial, long-awaited reforms.

11. STL, People, State and Armies

Gentlemen,

Our abidance by the charters of the United Nations and our observance of its resolutions are due to our firm conviction in the International legitimacy based on the principles of justice and right. Consequently, we would like to confirm our participation in the establishment of the International tribunal with regard to the assassination of the martyr Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and his companions, as well as the assassinations which followed in order to bring justice.

The evolution of the Resistance was a need during the impotence of the state and the persistence of this Resistance was achieved by virtue of the support granted by the Lebanese people, the State, and the Lebanese Army.

The success of the Resistance in the mission of vanquishing the israeli occupier springs from the courage and greatness of its martyrs and yet, the farms of “Shebaa” which are still occupied and the enemy’s persistence in threatening to violate our sovereignty impose upon us to elaborate a defensive strategy that will safeguard the country concomitantly with a calm dialogue to benefit from the capacities of the resistance in order to better serve this strategy. Accordingly, we will manage to avoid depreciating the achievements of the resistance in internal conflicts and subsequently we will safeguard its values and national position. This day coincides with the National Day of liberation and victory and therefore I hope that this occasion prompts us to be more and more conscious of the dangers that are threatening us and to renew our adherence to freedom and democracy to which we have suffered and sacrificed in order to ensure and safeguard our homeland.

The Lebanese president, in his inaugural speech, insisted on the importance of the people, army, resistance formula (The evolution of the Resistance was a need during the impotence of the state and the persistence of this Resistance was achieved by virtue of the support granted by the Lebanese people, the State, and the Lebanese Army). The president also assured his support to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (the Hariri Tribunal). Just as an interesting fact, his last cabinet did not include both statements in the ministerial declaration – showing a clear change of policy between 2008 and 2014, and the defensive strategy that was expected to see light during his rule never did, probably due to the fact that he started taking sides – although it was constitutionally unwise to do so (The constitution clearly says in article 49 that “The President of the Republic is the head of the state and the symbol of the nation’s unity. He shall safeguard the constitution and Lebanon’s independence, unity, and territorial integrity). Apparently countering the Israeli threat meant rewarding the Judge that let go some of the Israeli spies with ministerial positions. Who knew.

12. …For The Homeland Embraces All Of Its Sons

In this context we should dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly to the mission of freeing the prisoners and the detainees as well as revealing the destiny of the missing persons in addition to recovering our sons who sought refuge in Israel, for the homeland embraces all of its sons.

There has been no progress in freeing the detainees in Syrian prisons, and a law passed  in 2011 still assured punishment for the former members of the Southern Lebanese Army (although it did allow their families to come home without being arrested).

13. Fraternity

Lebanon has and will always persist in strengthening the relations with the Arab brethren and thus we are looking forward to achieve a relation of fraternity between Lebanon and Syria in the framework of mutual respect to the sovereignty and the border of both states, and diplomatic relations which will serve the interests of the two countries.
What is most important in this concern resides in the perfect implementation of the equal relations which will be lacking all past flaws, and accordingly we will benefit from the past experiences to avoid any upcoming problems and to ensure the interests, the prosperity and the security of the two brother countries.

Syrian-Lebanese mutual respect became so intimate that by the end of 2013, most of the Lebanese were either pro-Syrian opposition or pro-Syrian regime. In other words, the whole republic suddenly became pro-Syrian during Michel Sleiman’s rule.  Lebanon became so Syrian that rival Lebanese parties decided to go into Syria and help their brothers in the faith. Welcome to the Semi-Autonomous Lebanese Republic of Syria, I guess. And the way to counter this was playing the March 8 and 14 alliances one against the other and destabilizing the country even more. In this regard the Baabda declaration was rather a good decision, although its application turned out to be a nightmare.

14. 50% Yes, 50% No

Fellow compatriots,

The State can not disregard any security violation and shall never allow in any case using a certain party as a source to reinforce terrorism or to advance the Palestinian cause as a pretense to purchase weapons, the thing that might destabilize the country. This type of incidents occurred last year when the Lebanese Army was attacked.

Let us work all together to deal with the repercussions of these incidents by remedying the wounds and reconstructing what has been destroyed. Pains are overwhelming but let us cling to hope. The weapons should always be pointed at the enemy and we will not allow any side to point them elsewhere.  Our firm rejection of the settlement does not mean that we object to host our brother Palestinians and to take care of their humanitarian rights, this rejection stems from our will to preserve the right of their return to their homeland until the establishment of the viable Palestinian State and that is why Lebanon insists on the content of the Arab initiative which was launched from its Capital Beirut in the year 2002.

The last 3 years were the worst. Weekly clashes in Lebanon’s second biggest city, two assassinations, dozens of rigged cars exploding in a small time frame and a million Syrian refugees stepping into Lebanon with little government control dominated Lebanese politics. But the best part was Marwan Charbel, Sleiman’s minister of interior between 2011-2013. The minister’s probably one of the best, but the fact that every time an explosion happened his answers were either ” I don’t know” or “50% yes, 50% no” showed a clear administrative chaos regarding security issues during Sleiman’s rule.

15. Equip These Troops?

The Armed Forces, and especially the Lebanese Army, have gained the confidence of the Lebanese people during the last years in consequence of achieving great and historic accomplishments starting with the protection of democracy and civil peace and the deployment of the Lebanese Army units in the South after an absence of more than three decades, in addition to confronting the enemy and the terrorist threat, and have subsequently offered many brave men on the altar of the homeland.

Moreover, the recent security incidents gave the impression that the Armed Forces did not assume the complete and required role. In this regard, it is noteworthy that the issue of ensuring the minimum level of agreement and securing the required political cover contribute to ward off such incidents in the future. In addition to this, it is essential to reinforce the morale of the Armed Forces on the national level, to equip these troops and to encourage the educated and promising youth to join the Army.

A plan to equip the Lebanese army with 1.6 billion dollars was implemented during Sleiman’s rule, but 1.6B. dollars, militarily speaking, is nothing. A Saudi-French-Lebanese deal in 2013 to equip the army with a 3 Billion dollars Saudi donation was more about the French and Saudis boosting their relation and increasing their influence in Lebanese politics by funding the Lebanese army (and hence controlling its weapon flow) than arming the LAF for modern warfare.

16. Shoukran Qatar

Gentlemen,

On this occasion, I would like to express my gratitude to the league of Arab Nations and its Secretary General for embracing the crisis which devastated the country and for undertaking productive efforts to elaborate the appropriate solution.

On behalf of the Lebanese people, I would also like to express the deepest feelings of gratitude to the State of Qatar, to His Highness the Prince, to the Prime Minister and to the Arab Ministerial Committee for their sincere efforts and their national commitment in launching and hosting the Lebanese National Dialogue which has succeeded by virtue of their initiative, and was crowned by the Doha agreement.

On this occasion, I would like to express my appreciation to the brother and friendly countries which helped Lebanon overcome the ordeals and to the States which are participating in the UNIFIL deployed in the South to implement resolution 1701, for their distinguished performance in complementarily with the Lebanese Army. We should also point out to the importance attached by this International Force to the development and social aspects in the areas of deployment and to the satisfaction of the citizens.

Even the national dialogue collapsed by the end of Sleiman’s mandate, and the president that came via a consensual deal failed to keep neutral stances, despite the violent repercussions previous biased presidential stances had on Lebanon.

17. Commitments and Freedom Of Speech

Fellow compatriots,

Much work lies ahead; my oath is a commitment I made, just as your will is also a commitment. Let us avoid drowning in promises, let us make an approach to reality and its various fields, within our capabilities, and let us enjoy the support of brothers and friends to overcome the difficulties. Let us be united in solidarity, let us walk along together towards a deep-rooted reconciliation in order to plant the seeds of hope in the hearts of our sons, to launch pioneering, creative and brave initiatives, to establish the foundation of the capable and civil State, based on the respect of public liberties, the freedom of expression and religion. Our national unity has cost us a lot, so let us preserve it together, hand in hand; God is with the community.

The same man that wanted to establish the foundation of the capable and civil State, based on the respect of public liberties and the freedom of  expression ended up suing his critics and throwing angry twitter users in jail. Not a golden age for the Lebanese freedom of speech, that’s for sure. And the very fact that this post wasn’t published before Sleiman left office (the law forbids criticizing the president) while militia leaders travel the country unscathed reveals something more: The president made the wrong men fear him.

To sum up this post, Michel Sleiman’s term can be described as a major disappointment. Bechara El Khoury’s undermining of democracy, Camille Chamoun’s biased moves, Fouad Chehab’s repression and military policies, Charles Helou’s weakness, Sleiman Frangieh’s awful way of managing conflicts, Elias Sarkis’ hesitation, Bachir Gemayel’s illusions de grandeur, Amine Gemayel’s corruption, a number of achievements similar to Rene Mouawad’s 17 days in power, and Elias Hraoui and Emile Lahoud’s dependence on foreign powers. In a unique way, Michel Sleiman combined the bad qualities of all the previous Lebanese presidents, while artificially glueing the state together: even the last cabinet’s official photo was photoshopped.

Even in his legacy, Michel Sleiman would be setting the stage for Lebanon’s least legitimate president since 1943. Due to the postponement of the parliamentary elections, Lebanon’s next president will stay till 2020 and would have been elected by the parliament of June 2009.

Reminder: We still don’t have a president.

[NOTE: THIS POST PREVIOUSLY APPEARED IN TWO SEPARATE ENTRIES ON THE BLOG (PART I, PART II). THIS IS THE FULL POST]

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