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Decentralization: the missed reform. A chat with Elie Elias

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After the dramatic civil war, Lebanon launched a process of decentralization but the results, as the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies often points out, were modest. We talked about it with Elie Elias, PhD-Senior University lecturer in History of Lebanon.

Why do you think the confederation is better than the federation?

“Based on the experience that the Lebanese political system faced in the last 100 years, any form of decentralization is welcomed. As for the preference between Federation and confederation, the first can hold more grounds to consolidate the Historical National Pact between Muslims and Christians”.

The devolution of power to local communities is way to avoid the dissolution for a fragile state. In Belgium, it worked, in England a little less. Could it work in Lebanon? Why?

“Local governance and moving the powers from the central government can stop using religion as a ticket to receive the minimum services from the government or in elections. For a successful decentralization system in Lebanon need to be accompanied by a legislative institution that deals with the regional affairs and another one for the country as a whole”.

Identity and religion have a very close correlation. Will people accept the decline of the religious element or will they have a “rejective crisis”?

“I do agree that Religion and Identity are correlated especially in a region like the Middle East and that is the reason of historical evolution for 14 centuries. Decentralization systems in our case consolidate the sense of belonging of every religious group in its historical region. Lebanon’s diversity is also regional”.

Can the new government be sensitive to decentralization?

“The decentralization is a reforming step mentioned in the Taef Agreement to stop the war and start the reconciliation post-war period. Unfortunately, every single government that was formed in the last 30 years was Pro-Syrian and Pro-Iranian which for those two countries a stable Lebanon is not an option. This is why the new government will not initiate any reform of that kind…”.

Il nostro reportage sul Libano: I Quaderni de Il Tazebao – estate 2021 – Il Tazebao

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