Lebanon’s Fragile Politics: Critical Issues and Open disputes

Abdullah Malaeb   

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أنباء الشباب

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri, President Michel Aoun have been stressing that there is no rift between them ever since Aoun’s return to the presidential palace. However, statements issued by the three officials highlight a disagreement over domestic and foreign policies.

The disagreements between President Michel Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri have been highly recorded since the inauguration of Aoun. In May 2017, discrepancies between Berri and Aoun prevailed over constitutional matters. The two officials disagreed over “authorities” and interpretation of the constitution. Recently, tensions between Aoun and Berri were recorded due to disagreements over the salary scale, tax hikes, state budget and auditing of extra-budgetary spending in previous years. The modification to Article 87 which requires an audit – of previously unaccounted-for spending as well as proposed budgetary spending – before passing the public budget is the main topic of disagreement between the two officials.

Also, the relationship between Baabda, Ain al-Tineh, and Beit al-Wasat has stuck over a crucial issue – Berri’s proposal to hold parliamentary elections before the end of the year. This proposal will be featured on next week’s Parliament agenda according to sources from Development and Liberation bloc. However, the fate of this proposal is in the hands of the Minister of Interior Affairs Nouhad Machnouk, who will decide whether the logistical arrangements for elections allow the implementation of Berri’s proposal.

Disagreements on foreign policies have also contributed to the fragile relationship joining the three officials. The government lately hit a new failure. Following quite a while of formally boycotting the Syrian administration, two Lebanese ministers visited Damascus to take part in a global exchange reasonable and converse with their Syrian partners, carrying inquiries of Beirut’s clashing relations with Syria and Saudi Arabia to the fore.

In spite of the fact that the visit was not officially endorsed by the Lebanese government or Prime Minister Saad Hariri, it happened. Lebanese Minister of Agriculture Ghazi Zaiter and Minister of Industry Hussein Hajj Hassan, of Hezbollah, were shot under pictures of Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has led his country through the convulsions of civil war since 2011. These reckless actions from the ministers of hezbollah are predict­able. However, Aoun’s international visits opened the doors to a greater discussion regarding the risks of a political decay. Amid his visit to the UN board, Aoun addressed a few news outlets, earlier and amid his outings, praising the part of Hezbollah as a true blue protection compel and attesting that Iran has at no time intruded in Lebanon’s local issues. These statements angered many Lebanese who interpreted Aoun’s claims as controversial or even incorrect.

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However, what continues to confuse international actors is the apparent submissiveness of Hariri, who is concerned about president Aoun’s acts and hopes that at some point Hezbollah and Aoun will show the political good refinement to stop embar­rassing him in front of his Saudi supporters, hence putting an end to Lebanon’s bipolar politics.

Finally, Lebanon’s society perceives Nabih Berri as the leading conductor of Lebanese politics alongside MP Walid Joumblatt who is labeled as the Lebanese political kingmaker in spite of his wide vacillations between positions. For that reason, Lebanon is currently awaiting the rise of a political leader or a political movement that would bring Lebanon’s political decay to an end. After 11 months of his inauguration, president Aoun did not establish a rigid government until this moment. He is striving to resist amidst major clashes between his policies and the agenda of political leaders who brought him, through a semi-grand coalition, to Baabda Palace.

(Anbaa Ash- Shabab, Al Anbaa)

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