Asharq Al-awsat English https://aawsat.com/english Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper http://feedly.com/icon.svg

Diab's Government Is a Front for a Dangerous Task!

Diab's Government Is a Front for a Dangerous Task!

Thursday, 7 May, 2020 - 12:45

The resemblance between the composition and role of the government of masks that Professor Hassan Diab was assigned to lead, and the government led by the late Omar Karami, formed while Emile Lahoud was president on October 26, 2004, and was brought down on the street on April 19, 2005, is uncanny.


Sixteen years ago, the leadership of the Syrian regime, which was directly ruling Lebanese, saw that the time was ripe for bringing the era that had begun in 1992 to an end. This era, which had Hariri's fingerprints all over it, introduced a new approach for managing the economy and established various policies, known as Political Harirism, the impact of which was beginning to stretch beyond the Lebanese borders. There is no doubt that Hariri's assassination distorted this approach and put the country in a frenzy, because the March 14 Coalition, which had won twice, in 2005 and 2009, in the parliamentary elections, lacked vision, renewal and real autonomy. Its priority was maximizing its share vis-a-vis the opposing March 8 Coalition, after the latter was concerned by the independence movement that had shaken the security apparatuses of Syria and Lebanon deeply. Thus, it pursued a policy of disregarding citizens' expectations, namely, the establishment of the pillars of an honest, accountable, transparent, and just state.


The difference between the two governments is that the parties of the previous “settlement” were the Syrian occupiers and President Emile Lahoud, who agreed to whatever decisions they had issued, and, at the time, the internal balance of power was not in favor of these two parties. On the other hand, the two parties of the current “settlement”, Hezbollah and the Aounists, and of course Aoun’s presidency, sprung from the pair’s explicit domination of the political class. It is well established that Hezbollah sets its regional agenda based on the interests of the Iranian regime, while the internal party's agenda is based on settling scores, which the Presidential Palace does not deviate from because it believes that its political opponents are the main obstacle to the fulfillment of Minister Gibran Bassil's desire to become president. In this context, Hezbollah, which has the final say on all decisions, appears, at times, like it is holding the stick from its center. It does not want to kill the Aounist ambition or give up on the necessary acquiescence of the other parties that are generally not opposed to its approach and continue to "pursue its amity". This is pursued despite these parties' conviction that Hezbollah's stance was the decisive element to change in premiership.


In other words, Hezbollah believes that as long as the other parties, especially the Future Movement, which directs its opposition to the president and his son-in-law, do not deviate from the policies pursued since the 2016 presidential settlement, it has no interest in taking the confrontation to unnecessary extremes. For this may threaten the equilibrium that it is comfortable with.


In this context, it is noticeable that Nasrallah, in his last speech, continued the reported negotiations between his aide Hussein Khalil and Hariri, saying that his party does not stand behind anyone, support anyone’s proposals or “incite a faction to clash with another for positions of influence”, adding, “to whoever thinks that we are able to do this, we stress that we cannot do that”... Then he gets to the point, declaring that Hezbollah is prepared to provide any kind of help… “we are prepared for this”. This promise’s translation is obvious, and it will definitely be reflected in the upcoming high-level appointments, allowing for the maintenance of a bare minimum of balance in the sectarian-quota systems in exchange for guaranteeing positions similar to those taken in the last session of parliament in which the government was granted confidence, when meeting the quorum was linked to the participation of the Future Movement, the Progressive Socialist Party, and the Lebanese Forces.


In fact, Nasrallah continues his approach of co-optation and deciding on each faction’s size and role, pressure others to make peace with the government that would not survive without his unlimited support, and he calls on extending that deadline that had been set for it. It is striking that the “opposition” knows very well that enabling Professor Hassan Diab’s government will reduce its chances of returning to their positions of power and these factions do not disagree in their assessment of this phase. There were two sides to Hezbollah’s decision to resort to this government. First, it is likely to implement decisions, which is guaranteed by its premier and members' lack of political cover, they will not hesitate to implement the plan that has been drawn up since none of them are concerned with political losses. The second aim, given the size of the collapse and the inability to find painless solutions, is to use it to implement policies that will exacerbate the misery of the majority of the Lebanese people, presented to the International Monetary Fund under the title of "Salvation Plan." Consequently, the party can behind it, believing that its sectarian base will not hold it directly for the burdens that it will face as all citizens will!


The pillars of the political class share, despite the absence of some from the government, a serious fear of the clean air that the “October Revolution” blew. Its influence declined because of the spread of the coronavirus and the need for quarantine, but it follows people to their homes. For the first time in Lebanon’s history, a ray of light bringing most regions and segments of society together, shined. Everyone took aim at the whole political class and held it responsible for the results of three decades of the sectarian-quota system and its corruption, with citizens coming together under the revolution’s slogan “all of them means all of them”, which they see as the chance for salvation, taking back control of the state that has been kidnapped and the dignity and rights that have been violated and regained the freedoms that have been violated to unprecedented degrees.


Based on this, we can understand that Hezbollah, attempting to eliminate all of the effects of the Political Harirism phase, did not hesitate to form this government and still has motives to meet its opponents, whom he can tempt, as what joins the two teams is substantial: the October Revolution quickly transgressed the taboos, whether by going beyond regional and sectarian divisions. What is most important is the new consciousness, language, and culture that it produced. The sectarian regime took refuge in the pandemic and is attempting to reproduce itself, beginning by distributing aid and sanitation equipment, and of course, some bribes.


It is a critical moment in Lebanon’s history and it will be difficult to predict the outcome. The gap is huge and the deterioration is substantial. A lot of time will pass before the catastrophic implications of the pandemic are realized. Inasmuch as it is difficult to predict the efficiency of the old ways of reproducing the sectarian system, it is also difficult to predict the extent to which the revolution’s impact on political change, which is still reaching the headlines but has not produced a program for the transition phase and is still lacking in its coordination on the ground. This coordination is crucial to mobilize capacities in this prolonged confrontation in which the sectarian forces have many strong cards to play!


Other opinion articles

Editor Picks

Multimedia