Prospects for a New Government in Lebanon
Hezbollah, the Shiite Muslim resistance group, political party, and military force, took down the Lebanese government under Saad Hariri on Wednesday, January 12, 2011, in protest of possible indictments of Hezbollah members for the assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, Saad’s father. This Monday, Lebanon’s parliament voted on the election of the next prime minister. Hezbollah had 68 votes out of 128 votes, therefore winning the election. The other 60 votes went to Hariri. To understand the complicated nature of such an election, I will give a little background.
There is an established arrangement for the set-up of the Lebanese government: the prime minister should be Sunni Muslim, the president should be Maronite Christian, the parliamentary speaker should be Shia Muslim. If you look at the former government under prime minister Saad Hariri, he is Sunni Muslim, the standing president, Michel Suleiman, is Maronite Christian, and the standing parliamentary speaker, Nabih Berri, is Shia Muslim. Now, with Hezbollah’s prime minister elect, Najib Miqati, being Shia Muslim, the illusion of balance that existed will be gone. When the election process is complete, Hezbollah will have control of the Lebanese government. Hariri has already stated that he will play no role in a government ruled by Hezbollah.
The Sunni Muslim population is enraged. Many took to the streets in violent protests and demonstrations in support of Hariri, and out of anger towards Hezbollah. The protestors burned what they could, including vehicles owned by the press. They were mostly in the northern city of Tripoli, which has the largest population of Sunni Muslims. The protestors are calling it the “Day of Rage”. Hariri has been asking his followers to stop the violent protests and demonstrations.
One of the most significant reasons Hezbollah wants control of the government is to have a government that will go against the Special Lebanese Tribunal (SLT) investigating Rafiq Hariri’s assassination. They want to take down the SLT in order to protect their members from any indictments. They have not been indicted yet, but they are not naive enough to think they won’t be. If Hezbollah members are indicted, many fear an outbreak of violence. Considering Lebanon’s history of violence, it is by no means far-fetched. If it does happen, however, who will intervene to bring peace back to Lebanon? Probably no one.