Majority of Lebanese believe in a secular state: survey

BEIRUT: Over half of Lebanese believe that a civil/secular system of governance is best for the country, the latest survey by Arab Barometer has revealed.

A thousand citizens were questioned over the phone between July and October on their opinions regarding the country’s political system and the Beirut Port explosion. The survey was conducted by Statistics Lebanon, a polling and research company, in conjunction with local governorates to help ensure the finds were representative of the public opinion.

Questioned over Lebanon’s state system, 56 percent of respondents expressed a desire for a civil political system, while just under a quarter preferred a federal system that maintains the country’s different sects. Christians and Druze are most supportive of a civil state, with 72 percent and 57 percent respectively. Within the Muslim population, nearly half of Shiites (41 percent) and Sunnis (46 percent) also prefer a civil/secular system of governance.

Despite this, people are unwilling to relinquish control of their sect’s authority over certain political posts. Since the 1943 National Pact agreement, the president must be a Maronite Christian, whereas the speaker of Parliament is a Shiite, for example.

When asked whether authority positions historically occupied by one’s sect should be available to all, 47 percent of respondents voted against this idea, but 37 percent agreed. This suggests that people are not yet willing to compromise favorable outcomes of such connections.

Regarding responsibility for the Aug. 4 explosion in the port of Beirut, 67 percent believe neglect and corruption from the state resulted in the disaster, while 20 percent think it was an act of terrorism.

Four months on, the Lebanese government is yet to yield any credible results from investigating what exactly happened to cause the blast. Outside efforts from international teams have been made, but are inconclusive.

Questioned over who should investigate the explosion, 11 percent of voters conceded that an investigation is useless, while over a quarter recommended that the Lebanese Army look into it. This conveys that a sense of trust still remains between citizens and officials. However, independent international experts came out top, with 41 percent believing this to be the best party to conduct the probe.

Despite the scale of devastation caused by the Beirut blast, it is not seen as a top priority for the government right now. A mere 16 percent of those surveyed voted for the city’s reconstruction as the most urgent issue. This was only marginally higher in the city itself, with 17 percent of Beirutis choosing reconstruction.

But overall, banking and financial reforms take precedent, with a third of Lebanese agreeing it to be the most important issue, alongside reducing inequality and poverty. Another issue considered urgent for the government is oil and gas exploration, but only 3 percent regard this as a priority.

The survey also reveals that few Lebanese donated money to relief organizations in the wake of the explosion, with 87 percent of respondents admitting they did not. This is conducive to Lebanon’s reliance on international aid to assist with the city’s recovery. Moreover, it is evidence of the impact of the economic crisis, which has pushed nearly half of the population into poverty and caused steep levels of inflation.

At a time when Lebanon is reeling under the weight of multiple crises from years of government mismanagement and negligence, calls for political reforms have become more urgent. But the survey concludes that out of those questioned, there remains hesitation for Lebanon to become a total civil state.

Read original article at Daily Star