Saturday, March 10, 2007

Changing positions in Lebanon

How fast the situation can change in Lebanon…or rather, how difficult it is to get a good reading on what’s happening. In my previous blog entry, I stated that the Hariri block was not willing to give the Opposition a veto right and that the Christians were in favor of using the Chapter 7 solution, which would allow the UN to directly install the Tribunal without approval of the Lebanese parliament.

As it turns out a few days later, the positions have changed: Hariri himself declared to be against giving a veto to the Opposition and the Maronite patriarch himself said that he was against using the Chapter 7 route. So what gives?

As for Hariri, it seems that he didn’t expect the backlash against his earlier position from both his Sunni supporters and the Christian pro-government block and so he was quick enough to “clarify” his stance.

The patriarch’s position is more intriguing. You would think he has no problem with putting pressure on the Opposition to push the UN Tribunal through. Christian leaders such as Samir Geagea and Amin Gemayel have stated previously that they wouldn’t mind a Chapter 7 resolution. Normally, they would make sure to be in synch with the patriarch, but the recent statement of the patriarch clearly differs.

Mustapha of the Beirut Spring blog has a reasonable explanation. According to him, the patriarch wanted to solidify his own grounds, now with a Saudi brokered reunification on hand between the Sunnis and Shiites. Afraid of becoming irrelevant in this greater scheme, he wanted to make sure the Christian position would not get lost. And he has good rights to be worried. Consider e.g., the last elections during which most Christian politicians were elected by Muslim voters.

The best way to prevent this from happening would be to use small election districts, but that’s not going down well with the Shiites, who due to their increasing number would benefit the most from large voting districts, preferably one district for the whole country.

Speaking of the election law, it’s quite illustrative to hear nothing anything about this anymore. Remember the huge demonstrations earlier before the previous government was toppled and the subsequent victory of the current parliament and cabinet? They all promised that the revision of the Election Law was their top priority. Whatever happened to those pledges? If memory serves me right, they did install a committee to come up with a proposal, but that proposal got lost along the way.

On a more positive note, Saad Hariri and Nabih Berri have been holding talks to discuss the various stumbling blocks between them. Berri, a fox as sly as can be versus Hariri who is politically greener than the neighbor’s grass. Let’s see what will happen, and let’s see how often Hariri has to “clarify” his positions again.

Amazingly enough, Siniora is not invited to these talks, nor is Nasrallah. More and more, it looks as if Siniora is losing control in Lebanon. Another invitation he didn’t get was to attend the Arab Summit at the end of the month., That was quite interesting, since Saudi Arabia is organizing the Summit and you would think Siniora to be close to the House of Saud. Even Siniora’s suggestion a few days ago that Saudi Arabia should appoint a critical minister as part of the 20-10-1 solution, didn’t help him much. This minister would prevent the government as well as the opposition from having a veto vote and is thus crucial. Outsourcing the choice of one’s pivotal politician is not really a strength of believe in one’s country.


fvdv said...

It's getting misty grey... keep us posted!