Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Suleiman & Hariri (1): the unlikely president

Posted by worriedlebanese on 12/07/2009

610x (154b02e0349f7a714a5bf7a426c5f474)One of the greatest political unknowns in Lebanon is surely the evolution of the presidential cohabitation between Saad Hariri and Michel Suleiman. They both share the same views on the head of the executive: his function, duty and responsibilities. Only both see themselves as that head. Let’s take a brief look at the political positioning of two men who never were intended to take such prominent political positions and try to see how things are likely to evolve for two unlikely politicians and between them.

If you want to read more on the unlikely President (what will & what way?) read below. In the coming days, you’ll find some thoughts on the unlikely Prime Minister.

The unlikely president: What will & what way?

The former head of the army was never a very promising figure. He rised to the highest military position during the Syrian Mandate. He was chosen to that post by the Syrian regime because not only he never opposed it politically, but he also never resisted Syrian interference and mishandling of the Lebanese army. Let’s just go beyond the slogans and glimpse at the most lauded institution in Lebanon, and what it has become. Everyone seems to celebrate its unity and neutrality, but they know that these are only words and that the picture is actually rather grim. Suleiman not only failed to curb the decay of General Fuad Chehab’s creature (under-equipped, under-trained, financially mismanaged), but couldn’t establishing a new military doctrine and policy. His management of six military crises is rather dismal: Donnieh in 2000, Majdal Anjar in 2003, July War in 2006, Nahr el Bared in 2007, Bab el Tebaneh clashes and “May 7th” in 2008… And then, on a sunny day of May, he was elected President of the Republic withstanding the fact that an article in the constitution forbids it.

During the first months of his presidency, he was very discrete. But in more recent months, he gave several speeches indicating that he was going to take a more active role after the next elections. He not only vowed to implement the Taef reforms (“deconfesionnalisation”), but announced he’d work on increasing the power granted to him by the constitution by amending it (somewhat reverting to a pre-Taef distribution of power within the Executive branch). What ever he chooses to do, he can only do through parliament, and in Parliament, he is rather weak, he has no bloc that directly supports him. He is undoubtedly the weakest Lebanese political figure. As long as politics are polarised in Lebanon between two coalitions, he is hostage to the political choices of the larger coalition, Hariri’s March XIV®.

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