FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Beirut’s Black Friday

by RANNIE AMIRI

It was political theater at its finest in Lebanon Friday.

After nine years in office, President Emile Lahoud stepped down from his post at the stroke of midnight without the legislature having named a successor. In fact, parliament never convened as the opposition parties spearheaded by Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement of Michel Aoun boycotted the ballot, preventing a quorum from being called. Since election of the president requires a two-thirds majority, neither the opposition nor the ruling March 14 Coalition led by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora can push through a candidate without the other being present.

Despite the constitutional requirement that authority be handed over to the prime minister should the presidency be vacated, Lahoud refused, stating that Siniora’s administration was “illegitimate and unconstitutional. They know that, even if Bush said otherwise.”

He instead declared a “state of emergency” and transferred security (but not political) powers over to the Lebanese Army under the command of Gen. Michel Suleiman. Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri set November 30 as the next date for a scheduled vote, yet tensions remained high in Beirut as checkpoints were set up and the Army positioned to keep pro-government and opposition partisans off the streets.

The political stalemate has generated anxiety over the potential outbreak of violence in the capital or the somewhat more dramatic fear that two separate, rival governments will ultimately be established in a prelude to civil war.

“We have no choice but to have a consensus,” said Saad Hariri, son of the late Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and parliamentary leader of the Future Movement of the March 14 Coalition.

How fitting such a statement was issued by the master of hypocrisy and double-dealing himself. Let us not forget it was Saad Hariri who paid the way out of jail and invited the Salafi militants of Fatah al-Islam into Lebanon, whom he then sought to use as instruments against Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah and Hezbollah (which most assuredly would have ignited a civil war, were if not for his plan to miserably backfire at the expense of hundreds of Lebanese and Palestinian lives in the debacle that was Nahr al-Bared).

More surprising than the present deadlock is the fact it has not come sooner, for the confessional nature upon which the Lebanese political system is based lends itself to do just that.

Under the unwritten National Pact of 1943 (the year Lebanon gained its independence from France), it was agreed that the President of Lebanon will be a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim and the Speaker of Parliament a Shia Muslim. Up until the 1989 Taif Accords there was also a slight majority of parliamentary seats allocated to Christians over Muslims. Due to a higher birthrate and subsequent Muslim majority, such an apportionment naturally engendered ill-will and was one of the factors leading up to the 1975-1990 Lebanese Civil War.

The Taif Accords sought to rectify this to some extent, distributing the parliamentary seats equally between Muslims and Christians (which still over represents the Christians population) and made the prime minister answerable to the legislature instead of the president.

Remarkably, there has no official census in Lebanon since 1932.

By current estimates however, the largest plurality of all the confessional groups are the Shia Muslims. Although the post of Speaker is not an insignificant one, it is felt they have never been accorded “a fair shake” by the government in proportion to their numbers, hence the huge popularity of groups like Hezbollah among them.

It was Hezbollah after all who paid for homes in southern Lebanon and the southern suburbs of Beirut to be rebuilt after last year’s war with Israel. Yes, this has done with the help of Iranian money. Nonetheless, is it not telling that a non-Arab country did more to assist the largest section of the population than did the government or other Arab countries? Are the Lebanese Shia actually supposed to trust a government which called upon Hezbollah to disarm while their towns, villages and cities were being decimated by the Israelis? Can any Lebanese have confidence in a Prime Minister who hugged and kissed Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice in spite of her refusal to call for a ceasefire?

A consensus candidate in the current standoff in Lebanon is needed, no doubt. But it is also high time a new census is taken, and let numbers speak for themselves.

RANNIE AMIRI is an independent commentator on the Arab and Islamic worlds. He may be reached at: rbamiri@yahoo.com.

 

 

 

Rannie Amiri is an independent commentator on Middle East affairs.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
Julian Vigo
The Hijos of Buenos Aires:  When Identity is Political
Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano
By Way of Prologue: On How We Arrived at the Watchtower and What We Saw from There
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix the ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
Aidan O'Brien
Fidel and Spain: A Tale of Right and Wrong
Carol Dansereau
Stop Groveling! How to Thwart Trump and Save the World
Kim Nicolini
Moonlight, The Movie
Evan Jones
Behind GE’s Takeover of Alstom Energy
James A Haught
White Evangelicals are Fading, Powerful, Baffling
Barbara Moroncini
Protests and Their Others
Joseph Natoli
The Winds at Their Backs
Cesar Chelala
Poverty is Not Only an Ignored Word
David Swanson
75 Years of Pearl Harbor Lies
Alex Jensen
The Great Deceleration
Nyla Ali Khan
When Faith is the Legacy of One’s Upbringing
Gilbert Mercier
Trump Win: Paradigm Shift or Status Quo?
Stephen Martin
From ‘Too Big to Fail’ to ‘Too Big to Lie’: the End Game of Corporatist Globalization.
Charles R. Larson
Review: Emma Jane Kirby’s “The Optician of Lampedusa”
David Yearsley
Haydn Seek With Hsu
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail