Hezbollah and the power of obstruction
Hezbollah will put us through a new chapter of obstruction - a chapter in which Hezbollah will play the hero
Michel Aoun has been elected president of the Lebanese republic and he assigned Saad Hariri the position of prime minister-designate and tasked him with forming a new cabinet while Nabih Berri will remain speaker of the parliament. Given all that, the strong figures in their sects - as per the Lebanese context - have become partners in governance and they have assumed authority. This lays the foundation for real partnership - also as per the Lebanese context. Authorities will balance out and none of them will dominate over the other like what happened with the Christians since the Taif Agreement and with the Sunnis since Hariri’s government was toppled in 2010. This means that the developments which we witnessed last week with the election of a president will reach its happy ending with the speedy formation of a new government. Perhaps this new government will be able to prepare an electoral law for the parliamentary elections for the beginning of next summer.
However, what we can conclude from Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah’s statements does not inspire confidence and does not reflect an honest will to push the project of the state forward. Hezbollah, which was embarrassed after Hariri endorsed Aoun for the presidency, could not evade the election process because it knows well the consequences of not electing Aoun. Minister Gebran Bassil said it clearly through a live broadcast that if Hezbollah does not commit to electing Aoun, it means it will have exited the Memorandum of Understanding between the two parties (Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement). If Aoun abandons this MoU, Hezbollah will go back to its isolation and this will increase other countries’ will to hunt it down.
Nasrallah’s recent statements appear positive on the surface. However, they do not pave way to launching a new era as much as they create a new wall of obstruction that can be added to the past two and a half years of presidential vacuum which was caused by obstructing parliamentary sessions through collusion between Hezbollah and the FPM.
Hezbollah authorized Berri with all negotiations pertaining to forming a government. This means that within the framework of satisfying its Shiite ally, it will not facilitate Aoun’s and Hariri’s task as it knows there are distant relations between Aoun and Berri and it’s well-aware that the two men and those surrounding them do not have the ability to carry out any constructive communication and may thus need Hezbollah’s mediation.
Hezbollah will put us through a new chapter of obstruction - a chapter in which Hezbollah will play the heroNayla Tueni
The president warned against forming a cabinet that does not include Amal representatives, and therefore does not include Hezbollah representatives, and reminded players of the need to be repaid for what he owes the two Shiite parties which stood by him and by his demands during the consecutive governments of former president Michel Sleiman. This means that not pleasing Berri will topple Hariri as prime minister and will prolong the crisis. It will cause a new crisis that will quickly take a sectarian dimension as Hezbollah did not name Hariri for the premiership and did not want to cooperate with him and only wanted to launch this new era within the context of the Shiite “obstructing third.”
As for the distribution of ministerial portfolios, the situation is not any better. Hezbollah’s refusal to grant the Lebanese Forces (LF) a sovereign ministerial portfolio means imposing conditions that cancel out others. The LF is equal to all parties and it’s even more popular than some other parties which Nasrallah is demanding be granted major ministerial portfolios.
Nasrallah commended current Prime Minister Tammam Salam for his patience and called on him to achieve more in his caretaker government. This implies that the current phase will once again be prolonged - this has become clear - and that Hezbollah will put us through a new chapter of obstruction - a chapter in which Hezbollah will play the hero.
This article was first published in Annahar on Nov. 7, 2016.
Nayla Tueni is one of the few elected female politicians in Lebanon and of the two youngest. She became a member of parliament in 2009 and following the assassination of her father, Gebran, she is currently a member of the board and Deputy General Manager of Lebanon’s leading daily, Annahar. Prior to her political career, Nayla had trained, written in and managed various sections of Annahar, where she currently has a regular column. She can be followed on Twitter @NaylaTueni