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The Real Obstacle to the Government Formation in Lebanon

The Real Obstacle to the Government Formation in Lebanon

Saturday, 31 July, 2021 - 10:30
Elias Harfoush
Lebanese writer and journalist

This is a power that does not stem from any authenticity, or from expansive representation within its community, representation which has, in any case, been called into question according to the latest referenda. Nor does it stem from its “historical” achievements. This power comes from the full support provided by Hezbollah to President Michel Aoun, and it is, in short and specifically, the power that stands in the way of attempts to form a viable and salvageable government within minimal standards -as the Lebanese no longer aspire to more, these standards being merely the ability to fill a car tank with gasoline, buy a pack of bread or afford medicine.

One prime minister goes and another comes, and visits along the road to Baabda Palace become more frequent, while the president is shielded behind Article 53 of the constitution. The person who handles matters of “justice” and the “interior” and who chooses Christian ministers, in an offensive innovation to the position of the presidency that makes the President of the Republic a mere party to political conflict. Meanwhile, the main purpose of amendments to the Taif Agreement was to make the president an arbiter between parties to political conflicts. That is, in other words, to make his position more immune to political campaigns, as he is above them and not a party to them.

Members of parliament had mandated Prime Minister Saad Hariri with forming a government, despite “advice” from Aoun who did not wish for Hariri for this position in the first place. The man spent nine months which, under normal circumstances, would be sufficient for any normal pregnancy to end with childbirth, and which ended with the farewell that Aoun addressed to Hariri: “It seems we will not agree,” and today, Prime Minister Najib Mikati begins a series of visits to Baabda. While the man adheres to optimism and patience, previous experiences with the President of the Republic do not bode well for such optimism. The cause for doubt relates to whether a man at this age is able to change the character that he has had since his youth, which the Lebanese experienced in many stages and difficult bloody experiences.

Behind the rhetoric on “Christian rights”, Aoun hides his rigid positions regarding the distribution of ministerial positions and the president's share of them. Who supports Aoun in defending these rights? Who does MP Gebran Bassil turn to for help in achieving them? It is Hezbollah, and its Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, whom Bassil “delegated” in protecting the rights of Christians in Lebanon. He told Nasrallah: “We accept for ourselves what you accept for us.” This is the slogan used today by Bassil's supporters and the Free Patriotic Movement (note the emphasis on the word “free” in the slogan that Aoun and Bassil adopted for their party).

The two take refuge in Hezbollah to protect their rights from what they claim are abuses by Sunni leaders and former prime ministers, including Najib Mikati. Thus, it is today the party of Wilayat al-Faqih that is entrusted with the task of protecting Christians in Lebanon, even if Christians had lived in dignity, with their heads held high throughout the era of Lebanese independence, and before the civil war, in full partnership with Muslims in their homeland.

This is the role played by the maestro of sectarianism in Lebanon, in distributing roles and reaping gains from all actors while he watches their conflicts and political differences, realizing that no one dares touch his share of the spoils. He is also aware that what the treasury of Lebanon, today totally incapacitated, is unable to provide, he can provide it from the treasury of Iran.

So, Lebanon has become a country in which candidates for leadership are vying for Hezbollah’s approval, from the President of the Republic, whose presidential elections were suspended for two and a half years to ensure his access to the presidency, to the Speaker of the House of Representatives to whom that seat has become dedicated, and now to the Prime Minister, having become Hezbollah’s voice, has become the decisive factor in giving the best chances for a candidate instead of another.

The seat of the prime minister in Lebanon has become another that Hezbollah is responsible for promoting candidates to fill, and increasing their chances of success, or failure, in forming governments. Whoever is named by the party, as happened with Mikati, or whoever does not object to his nomination, as happened with Hariri, is the one who becomes the natural candidate to enter the Grand Serail. Thus, the premiership of Lebanon has become the last position in the troika of the Lebanese authority that Hezbollah succeeded in laying its hands on, after it was able to bring its candidate, President Michel Aoun, to the Republican Palace, and Speaker Nabih Berri became effectively the “eternal leader” of the House of Representatives. And here is the designated prime minister, now awaiting a green light from Hezbollah to facilitate the formation of his government, after granting the party a “deed of innocence” saying that it represents a large segment of Lebanese society, while ignoring the way the party has hijacked the capabilities of this helpless segment.

In playing the role of both facilitator and obstructer, Hezbollah obscures itself behind the veto set by its ally, President Michel Aoun, armed with the constitutional text that stipulates “agreement” between the President of the Republic and the government to issue decrees of its formation, while its real goal is to ensure that the party maintains hegemony over the country after the upcoming parliamentary elections, which is the reason for Aoun's adherence to the Ministries of Interior and Justice that will play a key role in managing these elections.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri was cognizant of this, and after apologizing for not forming the government, he said frankly that Hezbollah was the main obstacle. Everyone is now waiting for the fate of Premier-designate Najib Mikati's experience in the “power struggle” with the President of the Republic.

All of this prompts one to ask the question: For which country is the government of Lebanon formed, as long as the identity and goals of the overseer of this formation process are known?

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