Hezbollah’s return to the government is a political trap

Hanin Ghaddar
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After three months of boycotting cabinet sessions, Hezbollah finally announced that it would return – with its ally, the Amal Movement - to the political table, but with the caveat of several demands.

The issues the groups are ready to discuss are the annual budget, the IMF negotiations, the economic rescue plan, and “all that concerns improving the living conditions of the Lebanese,” their joint statement said. They will not discuss and decide on the upcoming appointments, mainly the judiciary ones. That is, of course, related to their efforts to jeopardize the investigation of the Beirut Port Blast, headed by Judge Tarek Bitar.

Bitar is the reason why both organizations boycotted the government in the beginning. Their return considers three main issues, none of which is a reason to celebrate.

First, efforts by Bitar to interrogate ex-ministers have been challenged with lawsuits, while Hezbollah and Amal have accused him of politicizing the probe. Today, there are claims of a behind-the-scene deal that jeopardizes the investigation.

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Prime Minister Najib Mikati denies this, saying that no cabinet decisions will hinder Bitar’s investigation. If there is an agreement, the victims are transparency and finding justice for the victims’ families.

Although Hezbollah is blaming its allies, everybody knows that the country’s paralysis sits entirely at its own doorstep.

The fear is the realization that its support is turning on it. Hezbollah cannot afford this kind of disillusionment with the elections on the horizon.

Hezbollah also understands the need to revive its political standing to control the election process. The decision to return to cabinet discussions has little to do with the economic crisis or any desire to resolve it.

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun heads the new government's first cabinet meeting at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon September 13, 2021. (File photo: Reuters)
Lebanon's President Michel Aoun heads the new government's first cabinet meeting at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon September 13, 2021. (File photo: Reuters)

Hezbollah realizes that any risk to its majority in parliament means the possibility of losing leverage when choosing the next president of the republic.

President Michel Aoun’s mandate expires later this year. Suppose Hezbollah’s calculations indicate that the new parliament will not grant it the power of the majority. In that case, it will probably try to postpone May’s election or push to have the presidential elections sooner. The group certainly needs to influence the cabinet to make these decisions.

Another danger linked to the election preparations is implementing policies protecting and preserving the political elite. Reversing the plummeting valuation of the Lebanese Lira has seen the Central Bank’s reserves plundered.

Last week, the bank’s governor Riad Salameh injected US dollars into Lebanon’s market. However, with only $13 billion left, Salameh is spending depositors’ money lodged by members of the public that they themselves cannot access.

All of this points to Hezbollah’s willingness to drive Lebanon and the people into the abyss economically, politically, and socially. There will be no accountability and justice, which will result in more crime and chaos. There will be fewer reserves in the central bank, which means the Lebanese Lira will fall more and become increasingly worthless.

In addition to the risk of postponement, there are other significant risks to the elections, including violations and intimidation.

There is no reason to celebrate Hezbollah’s return to the government or the ever-diminishing value of the lira. These are strategies employed by the group and the political and financial leadership to jeopardize justice and democracy.

The coming months are vital for this fake political party both internally and internationally. While elections will determine the parliament and the president, the talks taking place in Vienna between Iran and the United States will also bear how the political environment will develop in the coming months.

Iran needs Hezbollah’s influence in Lebanon as bargaining chips for leverage in the negotiations. Hezbollah’s active role in government might safeguard the group’s influence and power, but it will prevent justice from prevailing.

The Lebanese opposition needs to unite to build a transparent political platform that issues a clear message to Hezbollah that it cannot interfere with the proper governance of the country.

The international community has to use every tool to protect Bitar’s investigation, proper oversight of fair elections, and ensure these elections do not occur before May.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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