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Lebanon Elections and Challenges for Forming a Strong Government

Following months of domestic and regional struggle, the Lebanese elections were held. It is obvious that election competitions has its own specifics when it comes to Lebanon, depending enormously on the sectarian mosaic of Lebanon and the regional rivalries, and the government that is formed in Lebanon is the by-product of these same parliamentarian elections.
May 2022
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Mohammad Ali Sobhani

 Following months of domestic and regional struggle, the Lebanese elections were held. It is obvious that election competitions has its own specifics when it comes to Lebanon, depending enormously on the sectarian mosaic of Lebanon and the regional rivalries, and the government that is formed in Lebanon is the by-product of these same parliamentarian elections. The complexities of elections in Lebanon are a wide topic, needing a separate examination. Based on the statistics and results declared, the Hezbollah-allied parties in the Christian and Sunni wings failed to keep their votes as much as Hezbollah did , to form a future administration that will be like the current administration in the resistance lines , so that there will be little change to the alliances and general line of the government. Many consider this trend a defeat for the Hezbollah front. But for those informed about the social layers and power-forming trends of Lebanon, it is clear that elections are fairly free and open, and these electoral behaviors cause changes, but the concept of defeat or victory depends on the type of interaction between the majority and minority, as well as the minority’s exploitation of its capacities, and the majority’s exploitation of its resources.

 1- On the first day that the Parliament is formed, the speaker has to be elected. And given the existing realties and regulations, the speaker, that must be decided by consensus among the Shias and be introduced by them to the parliament, will be no one but Nabih Berri. Also , for the majority to exploit the political process and reach an agreement on the president and the prime minister, there will be no choice but reach a compromise, though in this round the tug of war shall intensify, and the give and take , at the government positions level as well as the positions of the ministers, will heat up.

 2- After the formation of the parliament, the prime minister, a Sunni politician, and the president, necessarily a Christian, are determined. The president is, of course, determined by the parliament, and it is the president that starts his negotiations with Sunni figures appropriate for the prime minister position, and following the election of the prime minister, the hotspot of the differences will be in writing the statement of the positions of the government. It is here the opponents and proponents of the Resistance face great challenges. This statement cannot pass without two/thirds of the parliament votes. Therefore, both sides have to reach an agreement, and in case of non-agreement , the government cannot take its next step to get past the critical conditions experienced in the last two years; that is a strong government cannot be formed, and a weak or flawed government will not be able to take serious decisions to get past the crisis.

 3-The Lebanese political theater, if supposed as a battlefield of sectarian, familial, geographical, or personal interests rivalries, the requirements for reaching an agreement will be as follows:

A. Regionally, the understanding between Iran and Saudi Arabia and to some extent the UAE and Syria are determining factors. If the Iranian-Saudi talks make progress, it will be a great boost to formation of a strong government in Lebanon.

B.The interests of sectarian, family and party and personal groups and the give and take of these groups in the counties, villages, and all geographical regions are one of the main elements of such an agreement, to which incidentally the majority has a greater need for forming the government and showing its position by reaching small and large scale agreements, and it seems the rationality of the influential internal groups can pave the way.

C.Internationally looking, the American and French influence in Lebanon is enormous , and Lebanon can be a converging point for showing this trend of understanding if the regional calm and understanding improves.

D.Israel’s status change and the creation of formal relations between Israel and some regional countries are another factor that can have a negative, though small, impact on regional and domestic understanding of Lebanon. Unfortunately, making use of the rifts created among the Arabs and Muslims , Israel has managed to change its former image as “enemy” among the Muslims and Arabs. The sectarian wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and all over the region have enabled Israel to upgrade its regional status; this alone has left its negative impact on the political developments of the whole region.

Last word, it has to be stressed that the Lebanese are doing all they can to avoid a political dead-end and civil war. But an early agreement and formation of a strong government based on understanding reached by all Lebanese will not be close at hand.

 By Mohammad Ali Sobhani – Senior Expert

   (The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)  

  

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