Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Understanding the growing criticism of Hezbollah within Lebanon

Posted by worriedlebanese on 13/10/2006

Why are we hearing more and more opposition to Hezbollah today? Does this mean that it’s loosing the political support it used to enjoy?I believe not. The opening up of the political debate in Lebanon during the past year, what the Lebanese call “the loosening of tongues”, just shows us that Hezbollah doesn’t enjoy unanimous support. But this doesn’t mean that it’s become a minor player in Lebanese politics and that it has lost its popular support. What it has actually lost is its “godfather” (the Syrian Intelligence Services in Lebanon) that insured a cross-communal public backing, and silenced all opposition to it, especially within the ranks of the Shiite community. And tongues loosened. Here’s how it happened: 

During the first months that followed the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, the political class that was set up and trained by the Syrian regime didn’t change its behaviour. It tried to silence all opposition to Hezbollah and completely ostracised all Shiite politicians that were critical of the party, so much so that none of these politicians got into Parliament. The Lebanese media didn’t help either because it completely ignored these independent voices during the elections period.   After the formation of the government, the same politicians started criticising Hezbollah, questioning its loyalty to Lebanon and its right to hold arms (although it was part of the common electoral platform). Very quickly, Hassan Nasrallah’s party lost the public support it enjoyed from the Future movement’s base (Sunnis) and the PSP’s base (Druze). And the media started voicing Shiite opposition to Hezbollah, presenting it as signs of the party’s dwindling influence and power. 

During the past two years the circumstances have changed and the “God’s party” had to adapt to something it had never experienced before: Lebanese opposition to it and public criticism of its actions. At first it reacted aggressively to this change (with the usual accusations of treason), but the party seems to have gotten used to this now. Hezbollah does not enjoy unanimous support, but then, no party does in a liberal democracy. The support it used to enjoy was artificially maintained by Syria and then by the quadripartite alliance.  

Nevertheless, Hezbollah remains undeniably one of the strongest political forces in Lebanon. It has shown during the elections and its mass rallies, that it enjoys a very strong support within the Shiite community, and every single poll indicate that it remains the first Shiite political force. What has changed is that its rivals and adversaries from within or from outside the Shiite community are becoming more and more vocal in their opposition to it.

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