Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Lebanese idiosyncrasies 3: “National dialogue”

Posted by worriedlebanese on 16/10/2006

Lebanese politicians have been calling lately for the pursuit of the national dialogue. But what they are referring to has been somewhat institutionalised, though not within the constitutional framework. This institutionalisation took the form of what has been termed the national dialogue table is one of the most startling innovations of 2006. This dialogue was kicked off on March 2nd and brought together fourteen “senior politicians” considered to be representative of the Lebanese political spectrum. The politicians gathered around the table were:
– Nabih Berri (Speaker, Leader of Amal, Shiite)
– Fuad Siniora (Prime Minister, Sunni)
– Hassan Nasrallah (Secretary General of Hezbollah, Shiite)
– Saad Hariri (Leader of the Future Movement, Sunni)
– Mohammad Safadi (MP, Head of the Tripoli Bloc, Sunni)
– Walid Jumblatt (Leader of the Progressive Socialist Party -PSP, Druze)
– Michel Aoun (Leader of the Free Patriotic Movement-FPM, Maronite)
– Samir Geagea (Leader of the Lebanese Forces, Maronite)
– Amin Gemayel (former President and higher leader of the Phalanges Party, Maronite)
– Butros Harb (MP, Maronite)
– Elias Skaff (MP, Head of the Zahlé Bloc, Greek Catholic)
– Hagop Pakradonian (MP, Armenian)
– Michel Murr (MP, Greek Orthodox)
– Ghassan Tueni (MP, Greek Orthodox)

All the participants were chosen and invited by Nabih Berri, who chairs the meetings. No clear criteria and rules were set for the selection. They were discretionary with a lot of negotiations behind the scene. Nabih Berri had intended to invite the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, the Baath party and the Popular Nasserite Organization. But Saad Hariri and Walid Jumblatt vetoed their participation. One can notice the great variety in Berri’s selection. We find Leaders who command large parliamentary blocs and benefit from a very strong communal support such as Hariri, Nasrallah, Aoun, Berri and Jumblatt. We find leaders heading smaller parliamentary blocs (Geagea, Gemayel, Skaff, Safadi and Pakradonian) allied to either the Future Movement or the FPM. We also find politicians that don’t head any bloc such as Siniora, Harb, and Tueini.
All participants to the National dialogue table hold an official function in the State except for Gemayel and Geagea… As for the agenda, it was equally set by Berri, with the agreement of the participants, so as to include the following issues: Relations with Syria the change in the presidency, the setting up of an international tribunal to try Hariri’s murderer, and Hizbullah’s weapon.

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