Don’t even try – you can’t beat us…

From today’s Daily Star: “Those concerned about the lack of a government in Lebanon can take heart – the country is unlikely to come near the record-breaking 250 days without a coalition that Belgium is almost certain to reach Friday. At least that’s what Belgium’s bicycling ambassador to Lebanon, Johan Verkammen, thinks. In an interview with The Daily Star, Verkammen joked of the record, whose current holder is Iraq on 249 days, that “once we have a record, we want to keep it.” On a more serious note, he said he thought it was unlikely Lebanon would be without a government as long as Belgium. “I have the impression, although of course you never know, that talks have advanced already on the formation of this new government.” Regarding the probability that Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati will form a government without the March 14 coalition, Verkammen remarked that “it’s not up to [non-Lebanese] to say what kind of coalition should be in the government in Lebanon. Certainly coming from Belgium where we know how difficult it is, you will not hear me saying how the Lebanese should do it.” The lack of a governing coalition is not the only parallel between the two outwardly-different countries. Belgium’s system of government divides power between the federal government, the country’s three linguistic communities, and its three regions.
Lebanon’s confessional system, which comprises 18 confessional groups, is different and perhaps more complex than Belgium’s, but Verkammen said that “it’s perhaps a little easier for us [in Belgium] to understand how to manage this diversity within a country, with different communities.” Verkammen attributed the current Belgian deadlock to controversy over institutional reforms. “As you can see from the crisis in Belgium [democracy is] always a work in progress, it’s always evolving,” he said. “But if you can make it evolve according to the wishes of the people, and through democratic dialogue, that’s fine, I think.”

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