New Lebanese Government and Internal, External Obstructions

2020/01/28 | interview, political, top news

Strategic Council Online: A professor of international relations says the new Lebanese government and the changes considered are in line with the demands of the people and protesters and stressed: "In the current situation, returning security and stability to Lebanon is very difficult.”

Speaking in an interview with the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, Dr Seyyed Razi Emadi cited the number of cabinet ministers as the first difference between this government and the previous ones including that of Saad Hariri. He said Saad Hariri’s government had 30 ministers but the government of Hassan Diab has 20 ministers.

 

Differences between New and Old Governments

He emphasized that the government reshuffle had been demanded by the people and the protesters. He added: “The people of the country protested the increase in government spending and considered it one of the causes of the economic problems. In the current situation, with the drop in the number of ministers, some of these costs are also reduced. Besides, Mr Diab’s government, unlike Mr Hariri’s, is made up of lesser-known people. The people demanded the government not to pick up old faces and Mr Diab fulfilled that demand and used lesser-known people who had not held ministerial posts.

“While in the past it took months to form a government, Mr Diab was able to form a new government in just 32 days, and this was a huge success for him and the groups that supported him,” the Middle East affairs analyst said. Mr Hariri took eight months to form a new government in 2018 when he was assigned to form a government. Likewise, Tamam Salaam took eight months to form a government in 2013.

Emadi said the new Lebanese cabinet has little to do with partisanship, noting that there are 20 ministers, 10 Muslims and 10 Christians, and there is less party affiliation in the government. As a result, it can be said as promised the government comprises technocrats and experts. There may be political faces but most are technocrats, and the government is not politically motivated in the hope that it could leave behind the difficult phase it is facing now.

 

Obstructing Government Formation

Asked whether the unrest and protests in Lebanon could be alleviated by the formation of the government, the university professor said: At the time of voting for Prime Minister Hassan Diab 44MPs were not present. Of the 18 members belonging to the Al-Mustaqbal stream, no ballots were cast. They further stated that although they did not vote, they would not block the formation of the government. This seems to be a proclaimed policy but it is different in practice and politics of the case since we have seen some disruptions in the process of forming the government.

A movement Is Organizing, Orchestrating Protests inside Lebanon

Referring to the violent protests after the announcement of the list of Diab’s cabinet ministers, he added: “Despite introducing a government demanded by the people and protesters, why did new protests break out in the early hours after the government was formed!” Given Lebanon’s current situation, it appears that a movement is leading and organizing the protests inside Lebanon, which may be the same movement that did not participate in the nomination of the prime ministerial candidate, including Al-Mustaqbal.

Foreign Interventions in Lebanon

Referring to some statements by French officials that the new Lebanese ministers should have the trust of the international community, he noted: Another issue was that when Mr Diab was nominated, some internal currents were opposed and some foreign actors, including Saudi Arabia and the United States, also joined the voice of opposition. Although these foreign objections were not explicit, they implicitly raised this issue. At the time Mr Diab’s name came up, a US official travelled to Lebanon, where he again raised the issue of nominating a new prime minister.

Emadi emphasized: “This shows that the demand of Hezbollah’s opponents has not been met in the process of nominating a new prime minister. They tried to achieve their goals in the process of forming the government, but they did not succeed, so today they claim that Hassan Diab is affiliated to Hezbollah, while he has declared that he is not affiliated with any faction and that he is an independent candidate.

He explained: Although Hezbollah and its allies, or the Resistance Coalition in general, supported the nomination of Hassan Diab as the new prime minister in parliament this is not a reason for Hassan Diab’s dependence. However, these groups inside plus outside actors are trying to exert pressure on Diab to avoid too much alignment with Hezbollah and the Resistance Coalition.

 

The success of New Cabinet Means Hariri’s Political End in Lebanon

The continuation of the protests is one way of failing the Diab cabinet, which exacerbates insecurity, the Middle East affairs expert said. Hariri’s family has been excluded from power in some way, and this is a strong reason for these insecurities to continue.

“We should not forget that after his resignation, Mr Hariri sought to get concessions and return to power as prime minister, but this has not happened and now he has officially stepped down and a new government has been formed,” he said. These are important challenges facing the new government and the continued insecurity can be gauged in this line.

The confidence vote would not be a challenging one, as Mr Diab won 69 parliamentary seats and the same number of votes would suffice, the analyst said bout the performance of parliament in the coming days. One or two ministers may not get a confidence vote but the cabinet as a whole will pass and there is no problem, but it is the cabinet that will face more serious problems.

He added: A movements at the regional level, especially in Lebanon and Iraq, have begun to strip the two countries of stability and peace because the resistance groups in these two countries have a prominent presence, including Hezbollah in Lebanon.

 

Restoring Security, Stability to Lebanon Is Very Difficult

He described the return of security and stability to Lebanon a very difficult task and said: “Given the conditions that this country has and the interests and policies pursued by foreign actors, it is difficult for the new government to do so, but what can help the new government as a first step is to deal with people transparently and honestly, and in the second step to try to alleviate people’s livelihood and economic problems by adopting rational and thoughtful policies. If it can do so in action, the unrest in Lebanon will likely subside.”

“Otherwise, my impression is that domestic actors, such as al-Mustaqbal and Saad Hariri, who have relatively strong bases and staunch supporters, and foreign actors will not allow stability and peace return to Lebanon. If stability and tranquillity are achieved, it will be short-term, and if the government fails to use this short-term stability to meet the demands of the people, the chances of a return to unrest in Lebanon are high.

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