Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Hezbollah: Renewed Concerns of Power-sharing and Democracy

Hezbollah: Renewed Concerns of Power-sharing and Democracy

Monday, 16 December, 2019 - 12:15

The night before the binding parliamentary consultations for the formation of a Lebanese government, the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, appeared once again to draw the blueprint of the formation. He delineated what was acceptable and what was not, affirming the saying, “One man rules the country.” Speaking before Nasrallah’s statement, the caretaker Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gebran Bassil, asserted his party’s determination to refrain from taking part in a government headed by Saad Hariri, adopting the popular demand for a technocratic government from head to toe. On the other hand, he stated that he insisted that the government formation reflect the balance of powers that were produced by the last parliamentary elections, reaffirming his arrogant formula: Either Hariri and I are both in the government, or both of us are outside of it. Bassil’s statement was free of outdated catch phrases concerning the course of the government formation since Michel Aoun became president, such as power-sharing, according to a parliamentary majority and minority in a government of technocrats playing proxy for politicians.

Nasrallah did not deviate from his usual dismissal of the Lebanese uprising as a conspiracy and putting it in the context of an open confrontation between Iran and the United States or rewinding the clock to before the uprising, and then forming a government that reflects the one that resigned in terms of balances of power, with him taking control over it, such as in parliament where he has a majority.

What’s new in his speech is the calm tone that he used and the democratic spirit that dominated the part of his speech addressing the Lebanese government. Nasrallah stated that “just as we rejected a one-sided government when they had a majority we are today rejecting a one-sided government while we have a majority because it is not in Lebanon’s interest.” He demanded a national unity government with the broadest possible representation able to overcome the economic and social crisis in the country.

Also new is his denial of Hezbollah’s insistence on Hariri as the next prime minister while affirming that they will respect that the others will choose the strongest in his sect. Only in passing did he address Bassil’s position, without naming him, asserting that Hezbollah is determined to share power with the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) in the new government.

Putting aside Hezbollah’s concern with Lebanon’s interest, many questions are revolving around his insistence on a power-sharing government with parties whom he one time calls ‘conspirators’ and another ‘corrupt.’ Reason dictates that if Hariri refuses to head the new government and the Progressive Socialist Party, Kataeb Party, and the Lebanese Forces all announce not wanting to be a part of it, Hezbollah will have the chance to form a government that will serve their interests. So why don’t they?

There are questions about the fate of the popular uprising, accusing it of treason on the one hand, and neglecting its demands on the other, especially those related to the formation of an independent technocratic government from outside the political groups in power for thirty years. How will Hezbollah deal with it? Will they deal with it the same way they dealt with the revolution in Iraq, as a by-product of the battle between Iran and the US?

What about Hezbollah’s relationship with its Christian ally and the Secretary-General’s marginalization of Bassil’s most recent statements? Has this relationship been shaken? Or is it just maneuvering behind which something we do not know of is cooking?

In reality, contrary to what they are both trying to imply, Iran and Hezbollah are in an unfortunate position, both regionally and internationally, especially after the popular uprisings in Lebanon and Iraq have proven that the Islamic Republic has failed to appeal to the local Shiite communities. Lebanon is witnessing an unprecedented popular uprising and tensions between the protesters, and Hezbollah and Amal supporters. Iraq is also witnessing a popular Shiite uprising with a primary demand that Iran stops intervening in Iraq’s internal affairs, an uprising that has been very violently repressed with arbitrary killings, persecutions, and assassinations of national activists, for which pro-Iran militias are the prime suspects.

Internationally, the closing statement of the international conference, formed by European initiative to help Lebanon, suggested that Lebanon distance itself from regional conflicts so that aid can reach it. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the Lebanese people, explicitly, to end the danger that Hezbollah poses as a first step towards escaping the crisis. At the same time, he announced new sanctions on Tehran. He also called for limiting the dangerous Iranian influence in the region after what it did in Yemen and Syria, where Iran now shares power with Russia and Turkey after it was the sole decision-maker. From that, we understand Hezbollah’s insistence on sharing the government with Hariri and the FPM, as more than ever, it needs a Christian and Sunni cover.

As for the popular uprising, it is likely that the tensions between the protesters and the supporters of the Shiite duo will persist without an intervention from Hezbollah similar to that of May 7, 2008. Instead they will continue to instruct the armed forces to be firmer with the protesters, which has recently manifested.

As for the relationship between Hezbollah and the FPM, the constant is that Hezbollah will not risk the Christian cover that it received like a gift from the heavens with the FPM. The most likely scenario is that their most recent positions are only a maneuver meant to proceed with appointing Hariri as prime minister while sizing him down by granting him a tiny majority. Later, they may hinder the formation of the government in order to extend the term of the caretaker government and allow it to continue to serve the interests of all the parties that are part of it. Also, the state will have to take unpopular and perhaps painful measures to address the economic and financial crisis, and there is no harm in the caretaker cabinet as it is to do so.

The possibility of forming an independent technocratic government is out of the question for Hezbollah, which will not compromise its influence in Lebanon at a time where the party and its Iranian patrons are in desperate need to hold onto their influence. Hezbollah will not risk all of these achievements, which it has worked hard to introduce to political life from the consensus to the agreement and power-sharing, all of which granted it the strongest hand with regards to drawing the country’s political map.

Another scenario is possible, where Hariri throws the ball into Aoun and Hezbollah’s court and refuses being appointed. Either he will accept or will turn the table on everyone, taking advantage of everyone, from his sect to his opponents, who insists on him being appointed, announcing to everyone, mainly the protesters, the formation of an independent technocratic government that meets the people and the international community’s demands. This would help alleviate the difficult economic situation in the country which may lead to a social explosion that would be difficult to contain. Only then would the white become distinguishable from the black. This hypothetical scenario is unrealistic in a country deluded into believing it is a nation, and it appears that darkness is looming over the country.

Other opinion articles

Editor Picks