Has electing a president in Lebanon become possible now that there are two candidates, Michel Aoun and Suleiman Franjieh? Or do Hezbollah’s aims extend beyond the Maronite presidential post and go as far as limiting the jurisdiction of the Sunni prime minister?
Hezbollah could have announced its support for Aoun as president, especially after Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea endorsed him even though they are bitter rivals. Hezbollah does not seem to be in a rush to elect a president. So was the 2008 Doha Agreement, which brought Michel Suleiman to the presidency, the last successful attempt to elect a president without having to amend the constitution?
There are two presidential candidates from the March 8 coalition, but Hezbollah - which leads this coalition - is refusing to attend parliament sessions to elect a president. Is there a farce bigger than this?Khairallah Khairallah
The next few weeks will reveal whether Hezbollah aims to bring a candidate they approve of to the presidency, or amend the constitution in order to establish a fixed Shiite post through which Hezbollah, and thus Iran, can indefinitely control Lebanon. Such a post, which no one is publicly addressing, would be that of a vice president.
From Hezbollah’s perspective, the vice president must have clear jurisdictions that grant him veto power over national decisions. Its excuse is that the Shiite sect is absent from executive authority, thus ignoring the fact that this authority is present in the cabinet.
Iran seeks to control Lebanon officially - not only via a sectarian militia - by amending the constitution before electing a president. This could be achieved by the constituent assembly, which Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah called for before issuing a retraction.
At last week’s joint press conference Aoun and Geagea turned a new page, putting behind intra-Christian disputes that lasted for more than 25 years and benefitted no one in Lebanon. Geagea was right to say the ball is now in Hezbollah’s court, and that the path has now been paved to elect a president within days.
Meanwhile, I believe Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, Aoun’s son in law, does not miss a chance to show that he is Iran’s foreign minister. Therefore, Hezbollah thinks time is on its side and the situation is turning in its favor, particularly given the country’s bad situation in all fields, particularly the economy.
What will Aoun do if Hezbollah prevents him from achieving his dream of becoming president, considering that the Iranian project in Lebanon goes beyond certain figures and as far as controlling the country via state institutions and the constitution, and through adopting a new electoral law that suits Hezbollah but not its rivals or pluralism?
Lebanon is confronting a new and unprecedented situation. There are two presidential candidates from the March 8 coalition, but Hezbollah - which leads this coalition - is at the top of the list of those refusing to attend parliament sessions to elect a president. Is there a farce bigger than this? Is there a clearer exposure of Iran’s role in Lebanon?
This article was first published in Al-Mustaqbal on Jan. 27, 2016.
Khairallah Khairallah is an Arab columnist who was formerly Annahar’s foreign editor (1976-1988) and Al-Hayat’s managing editor (1988-1998).
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