Monday, February 11, 2008

March 14 accepts 10-10-10, tension rises further

In a surprising move, March 14 has accepted the 10-10-10 division of minister seats during a meeting with the Opposition in the weekend. Not that it has lead anywhere due to Aoun’s refusal, but it is a significant step. Unfortunately, it didn’t do anything to reduce the tension.

Quite the opposite as this weekend saw gunshots fired at Nabih Berri’s residence after Hariri’s speech (trying to stir up things between the Sunnis and the Shiites?), a guard of the Parliament wounded by gunshots (apparently by supporters of Hariri who were brandishing their guns in celebration firing after his speech on Saturday) and two members of Jumblatt’s PSP wounded by men firing at them.

These events overshadowed the concession made by March 14 in accepting the 10-10-10 division, meaning 10 seats would go to both March movements and 10 seats would be chosen by the future president, on the condition that this will be Michel Suleiman, the current army commander. Although it was reported earlier that March 14 had already agreed to this formula, the French language newspaper L'Orient-Le Jour brought it as opening news in their weekend edition.

Aoun, apparently taken aback by this concession, had to refer to his allies. After making the necessary phone calls, he came back into the meeting to put additional demands on the table: the identity of the prime minister should be known in advance whereas March 14 states that it is up to the new president to appoint a prime minister.

Also, March 8 wants control over the ministries of Interior, Justice and Foreign Affairs, not coincidentally crucial positions to block the UN Tribunal. In addition, March 8 wants a new electoral law before appointing a new president, to ensure that it gets a fair shake during the next elections. The casual observer will remember that the last elections were held under the patronage of Syria and thus would have been fully skewed to favor the pro Syrian parties. They lost anyway despite the manipulation of the electoral law; so one can only wonder what March 8 tries to achieve by changing a law already in its favor.

March 14, in the mean time, is mobilizing its supporters for the demonstration coming Thursday, February 14, the third year memorial of the killing of Rafiq Hariri. By all accounts, this will be a huge rally with an expected high turnout and despite Berri’s call for unity, it will be a March 14-only event. Saad Hariri’s speech this weekend was an indication of the mood within March 14: fierce, aggressive and, may I say it, a little desperate.

The strong worded speech of the otherwise calm Hariri in which he claimed to elect a president no matter during the parliament meeting that was scheduled for today, didn’t result in much since Berri cancelled anyway, leaving Hariri empty-handed.

Not to be outdone by Sunni leader Hariri, Jumblatt gave an even stronger speech, basically saying that if March 8 wants war, they can get it. He toned it down the next day, but still, the message was one of increasing impatience with the current situation. Hezbollah responded in kind by saying that Jumblatt threats to the Opposition were like “an ant threatening a lion”.

Statements like this do nothing but build up a moment “in the streets” where the followers on every side seem to be gearing up for another round of confrontation. The riots on Bloody Sunday might not have proven enough opportunity to blow off steam, but should rather be considered a warming up.

4 comments:

AK said...

Riemer, I don't think they accepted 10-10-10 as you reported. That was Berri's offer, which Aoun said he wasn't aware of, and then said they'd consider it only if they also pick the next PM, security chiefs, etc. March 14's offer is 13-10-7.

Riemer Brouwer said...

@AK,
Hence my surprise that L'Orient had it as opening news in their weekend newspaper that actually, March 14 accepted the 10-10-10 division.

Somehow, the reporting on this topic by the regular newspapers is not really informative. Like, March 14 has been saying from the start that they fully support the Arab League proposal, which clearly states the 10-10-10 division.

Then why now report it as opening news that a few weeks later, March 14 accepts this division: Hadn't they already agreed to it the moment the proposal came out of Cairo?

Or could it be the news sources I am reading mostly (l'Orient, Daily Star and Naharnet.com) are so biased to simply leave out the fact that March 14 did NOT agree to the Arab League proposal thus giving the impression that only March 8 was the one objecting to it?

Anonymous said...

riemer, the arab initiative did not propose the 10-10-10 formula, it proposed 13-10-7. read the link you posted more closely:

The condition was rejected by Majority representatives and Hariri asked Moussa to note in the minutes of the talks that the March 14 majority approves the Arab League Chief's original proposal of forming a cabinet along the lines of 10 seats for the opposition, 13 for the majority and seven for the president.

Riemer Brouwer said...

@Anonymous,
As far as I understand it, the Cairo Agreement stated a 10-10-10 division. See also here or here for the Arabic text.

What is unclear to me is if this would give a veto right to any party, as each has 1/3rd, or should they have 1/3rd + 1?