What does Lebanon’s new government say about Lebanese politics?
Posted by worriedlebanese on 14/07/2008
For the past three days, the Lebanese press and television have been continuously commenting on the composition of the country’s new government. Here are a couple of political observations that seem to have escaped almost everyone
1- There’s no such thing as accountability. PM Siniora is back in office, after having failed to resolve a year and half long political crisis: equating stubbornness with political courage, prolonging a very distructive “status quo”, refusing to admit political responsibility when half of the “quadripartite alliance” broke away from the coalition that brought him to office while refusing to accept the resignation of the Shiite ministers for over a year.
Hezbollah and Amal are represented in the new government even though they engaged in street combats that terrorised the population of Beirut.
Hariri’s Mustaqbal and Jumblatt’s PSP are equally represented, even though the street combats clearly showed that they had constituted their militias. While the first failed to hold more than a couple of hours in Beirut, the second fared quite well in the mini-war.
2- Violence is the only deadlock breaking mechanism. For over a year and a half Lebanon lived through a major political crisis that split the country in two. The Hariri-Jumblatt alliance had ruled the country without any Shiite partner and after having dismantled the Constitutional Court, while Hezbollah occupied Solidère’s parkings and Speaker Berri blocked the Lebanese parliament. After May’s lethal showers, the deadlock broke and the Harri-Jumblatt alliance accepted to form a new government, one in which the dominant shiite political groups took no extra seat.
3- The Christians are back. Divided but independent. For over a year, the media was focused on the “Aoun phenomenon”, either portraying him as the solution to Lebanon’s woes or as the reason for the country’s hardships, even though he had absolutely no power to speak of, and the real crisis was elsewhere, it concerned the quadripartite alliance that brought together the only real political players in Lebanese politics and who happen to be the dominant leaders in Lebanon’s three largest muslim communities. The alliance secured each one’s monopoly over his community (except for the Shiites who suffer from a duopoly). And the breaking up of this alliance pitted the Shiites against the Sunnis and Druze. In this crisis, the Christian leadership was split in two, and it did nothing more than talk and comfort each side by showing it that it was not isolated and surrounded by enemies.
Quite surprisingly, the deep divisions within the Christian leadership and population payed off. Since the Taef agreement in 1989, never has the Christians been so well represented in the government. All Christian ministers are either truly independent or they belong to a representative Christian party or political block, and the Muslim leaders had to abandon most of their Christian pawns so as to show that they are truly respectful of the Christian’s political choices.
ICG report on The new Lebanese equation