Close race likely in deliberations on new prime minister

02 April 2013

Both of Lebanon’s political camps are undecided on their preferred nomination for the next prime minister, and political sources say that parliamentary consultations are likely to finish with two or three names in close competition for the top job.Any disagreement about the nomination might continue, especially given a lack of clarity in the Constitution about how many votes are necessary for the nominee to proceed. On the subject, the Constitution states: “The president nominates the prime minister-designate after deliberations with the Parliament speaker based on the official outcome of obligatory parliamentary consultations.”

Because of the uncertainty, the president will need to ensure that the nominee has as many MPs as possible pledging support.

But there are other considerations. Senior March 14 sources say that since its military withdrawal from the country in 2005, Syria has never given the green light for Lebanese elections without first assuring it has certain political assurances.

In 2005, elections went forward only after the quartet of Hezbollah, Amal Movement, Progressive Socialist Party and Future Movement joined forces.

In 2009, Damascus waited until after May 7 and securing the “blocking third” in the government, which favored its then-minority allies.

Now, the sources say Syria’s priorities lie with preserving the arms of Hezbollah and maintaining its power as a balancing force to March 14.

The sources believe this explains why March 8 is clinging to the past government’s formula of “the people, the Army and the resistance,” and is also the reason it backed the Orthodox Gathering’s electoral draft law. The law put March 14’s Christians in a difficult spot, and it reinforced the popularity of March 8’s Christians, namely Free Patriotic Movement MP Michel Aoun and his Change and Reform Bloc.

The March 14 sources demand the formation of a neutral and technocratic government to deftly manage the country’s current difficult phase and oversee the next elections by the constitutional deadline.

They add that Hezbollah is doing its utmost to keep its place in Lebanese politics, an increasingly difficult feat given its alliance with Iran, which puts it at odds with many Islamic countries, as well as its violation of the Arab League consensus by fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Both Hezbollah and Speaker Nabih Berri back Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour, and his comments in support of the Syrian regime and Hezbollah after accusations about the deadly Burgas bombing have made the party’s position more difficult.

For its part, March 8 sources say its constituent parties are focused on stopping political bickering, and say that Sunday’s meeting between Aoun, Marada Movement and Hezbollah was focused on the next prime minister, coming government and electoral law.

The sources add that attendees decided to postpone a decision about these issues until the outcome of Berri’s current deliberations is clear.

At the meeting, the sources report that Hezbollah said it would accept the nomination of former minister Khaled Qabbani or caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati as the next premier, on the condition that the new Cabinet was officially dedicated to preserving the group’s weapons.

© Copyright The Daily Star 2013.


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