Why Lebanon is Still without a President?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Mohammad Irani
Iran's Former Ambassador to Lebanon and Jordan and Middle East Analyst

A crisis involving election of Lebanon’s new president is entering its twenty second month. In the meantime, in order to get the country out of this situation and in order for the country’s lawmakers to choose the new president, the country’s parliament must hold a session attended by at least two-thirds of lawmakers who have been elected by people. This has not happened so far due to a variety of political and ideological differences among various political groups that sway influence in Lebanon. Now, as a first step, this number of parliament deputies must attend the legislature’s session after which half plus one of them should vote for the presidential candidate.

To explore root causes of this crisis, one must point out not only internal differences resulting from lack of national unity and absence of consensus among various political groups in Lebanon, but also foreign interventions and policies pursued by some foreign powers in this country. Saudi Arabia tops the list of these countries, which from the very outset have taken steps to prevent a solution from being found for Lebanon’s presidential crisis.

On the other hand, regional issues and the ongoing crisis in Syria also play a role in the case of electing a president for Lebanon. Developments in Syria have constantly affected the political situation inside Lebanon, but Saudi Arabia has a special image of the region in mind in which it sees itself as a leader in this insecure region, and is therefore trying to set the direction of domestic developments in such countries as Lebanon in accordance with its own political orientation and interests. The main axis of policies that make up Saudi Arabia’s regional doctrine is to provide support for Sunni groups in various regional states. In Lebanon likewise, Saudi Arabia has been trying since a long time ago to provide all kinds of support to certain Sunni groups, including the country’s former Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, in a bid to undermine the position of the resistance axis, and Hezbollah movement in particular, in Lebanon’s political equations.

The alliance led by Hariri under the general title of Tayyar Al-Mustaqbal (the Future Movement), has 38 seats at the country’s parliament and takes advantage of its clout in order to achieve its goals. These efforts are made despite the fact that according to Lebanon’s democratic formula, the country’s problems are always solved through agreement among various political currents and tribes that are present in the country’s political arena, and basically speaking, there is no other way to solve these problems. The country’s president must be chosen out of Maronite Christians. At present and due to specific reasons, Michel Aoun and Suleiman Frangieh stand a better chance for becoming Lebanon’s president. In the meantime, both of them support the resistance axis, but Michel Aoun has more support among the country’s Christians. On the other hand, Hezbollah movement, which has the biggest support base among Lebanese Shias has also taken sides with Michel Aoun.

In another development in the country’s difficult and complicated internal equation, Samir Geagea, another political leader of Lebanon’s Maronite Christians, recently announced his support for his historical rival, Michel Aoun, thus inciting the wrath of Saudi Arabia and Saad Hariri. Therefore, it seems that Saudi Arabia’s efforts to obstruct resolution of Lebanon’s crisis will get nowhere, but at the same time, it must be admitted that Saad Hariri and his al- Mustaqbal party have many seats at the parliament and in addition, lawmakers affiliated to the Amal Movement and its leader, Nabih Berri, are high enough in number to be able to block a two-thirds quorum from being reached at the parliament. The role of Saudi Arabia in this complicated equation is such that it tries to play Hariri’s card and, unfortunately, some nationalist Lebanese groups in order to veto a possible presidential candidate who would not be in line with Riyadh’s policies.

In the meantime, it is necessary for major political groups in Lebanon to deal with this challenge without being affected by foreign influences and solely on the basis of Lebanon’s national interests.

Encouraging national dialogue and participation of all groups in determining the fate of Lebanon could be a serious step toward resolution of the existing crisis. With regard to the role of regional and transregional actors, it must be noted that foreign intervention will further complicate the situation. However, purposive and systematic foreign support can pave the way for the resolution of Lebanon’s crisis. Foreign powers, including Russia, which is playing host to Saad Hariri, can play an active role in the resolution of the country’s crisis. It seems that following its meaningful role in the Syria crisis and after creating a new combat arrangement in this country in favor of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces, Russia's role in regional developments has become more serious. Since any crisis in Syria has historically left its mark on developments in Lebanon, a brighter prospect for the resolution of the Syria crisis due to recent advances by the Syrian army and Assad’s allies on the battlefield can have a positive psychological impact on Lebanon and pave the way for the resolution of the country’s crisis.

Key WordsLebanon, President, Lawmakers, Crisis, Political Groups, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Domestic Developments, Political Orientation, Interests, Saudi Arabia, Regional Doctrine, Sunni Groups, Regional States, Saad Hariri, Resistance Axis, Hezbollah Movement, Tayyar Al-Mustaqbal, Suleiman Frangieh, Michel Aoun, Samir Geagea, Nabih Berri, Transregional Actors, Russia, Irani

Source: Iran Newspaper
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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