- Lebanon’s election three weeks ago — the first in nine years, strengthened the position of Hezbollah — with a strong performance by its allies.
- The Future Movement, the party of Hariri, lost several seats and left him weakened, but due to Lebanon’s political system, which reserves the position of prime minister for a Sunni, Hariri was the only candidate with the power base to take the position.
(Reuters)BEIRUT: Nothing in Lebanon comes before political compromises.
This was the case on Wednesday, with the reelection of Nabih Berri as speaker of the House of Representatives for the sixth time and the election of Elie Ferzli, one of Syria’s allies in Lebanon, as deputy speaker.
And it was also the case on Thursday when Prime Minister Saad Hariri was handed a third term by members of the house.
His appointment had been expected, and now paves the way for perhaps the biggest set of compromises — consultations with deputies to form the next government.
Lebanon’s election three weeks ago — the first in nine years, strengthened the position of Hezbollah — with a strong performance by its allies.
The Future Movement, the Sunni party of Hariri, lost several seats and left him weakened, but due to Lebanon’s political system, which reserves the position of prime minister for a Sunni, Hariri was the only candidate with the power base to take the position.
The scale of the challenge in forming a government was highlighted by who did and who did not back him in Parliament.
He was nominated by 111 MPs out of 128 with Hezbollah and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, an ally of Bashar Assad, not supporting him. Two other pro-Syrian MPs and an independent also did not back him.
Ahead of President Michel Aoun’s announcement, Hariri appeared optimistic, stressing that the government “must be born quickly, there are no reasons to obstruct its formation or delay its completion.”
He said that the Gulf and U.S. sanctions on Hezbollah should accelerate the process of formation.
In contrast to Hariri’s optimism, there are those who believe the formation may take a long time, because of demands and counter-demands.
They also believe that Hezbollah may demand to be given a crippling one-third share in the government without the need for ministers of its Christian ally, the Free Patriotic Movement.
Hezbollah and Amal may demand six Shiite ministers if the government has 30 ministers, and may also demand the representation of the seven-member Al-Marda bloc with two ministers.
They may also demand the appointment of a Sunni deputy, who is not affiliated with the Future Movement, as well as Talal Arslan, the only rival of Walid Jumblatt in the Druze community, as ministers.
If obstacles to obstruct the government’s work are put in place, through alliances within the Council of Ministers, in the face of prime minister-designate the formation of the government may take time.
However, as journalist Tony Francis believes, “Hezbollah will not try to obstruct the formation of the government because the course of regional developments is pressurizing it.”
The current Lebanese government is a caretaker government after holding the first plenary session of the elected Parliament.
The Free Patriotic Movement, headed by Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, was keen on the serious relationship between Berri and Hariri, and Bassil did not follow the footsteps of the other main Christian party, the Lebanese Forces in not voting in the election of Berri and Ferzli.
The leader of the Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblatt stressed his commitment to the relationship, and that he supported Hariri to head the government. The election of Ferzli by deputies in Jumblatt’s parliamentary bloc was an indication of goodwill, and Jumblatt demanded to be treated equally by giving the Druze essential portfolios.
Bassil stressed the keenness of the Free Patriotic Movement on the strategic alliance with Hezbollah.