News / Middle East

Lebanon Ponders its Political Future

Lebanese Druse leader Walid Jumblatt speaks during a press conference at his house in Beirut, Lebanon, Jan. 21, 2011
Lebanese Druse leader Walid Jumblatt speaks during a press conference at his house in Beirut, Lebanon, Jan. 21, 2011

Multimedia

Audio
Margaret Besheer

Lebanon's political waters remained murky over the weekend, ahead of expected parliamentary consultations Monday on a new prime minister.  The big question on everyone's minds is whether Druse leader Walid Jumblatt will be able to deliver the Hezbollah-led opposition enough of his parliament deputies to give them the majority necessary to crown their candidate prime minister.

On Friday, Walid Jumblatt said his party stands with Syria and the resistance, a direct reference to Hezbollah.  But he stopped short of saying that he would deliver his 11 members of parliament to the opposition. Lebanese newspapers reported Saturday that Jumblatt met late Friday with the head of Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah.

Most Lebanese suspect the political horse-trading will continue until the moment the parliamentary consultations begin - whether that is as scheduled on Monday or if they are postponed for a second time.

If the opposition - known as the March 8th bloc - acquires the roughly 65 deputies needed for a majority in the 128-member parliament, then they are likely to back former Prime Minister Omar Karami as their candidate.

Karami has held the office before, most notably in 2005 when his predecessor Rafiq Hariri was killed in a massive truck bombing. Karami's pro-Syrian government came under huge public pressure following the assassination, which many Lebanese blamed on Damascus, precipitating Karami's resignation a couple of weeks later.

If the Western-backed parliament bloc, known as the March 14th coalition, hangs on to their slim majority, they will re-nominate the slain Hariri's son, Saad, as prime minister. Saad Hariri was toppled from the job 10 days ago, when opposition ministers resigned from the cabinet forcing his government's collapse.

Whether on the Lebanese street or among analysts, everyone is discussing Walid Jumblatt and which way his deputies will vote.

Ahmed, a taxi driver in West Beirut says Jumblatt will only be able to offer himself and two of his deputies.

While Mitri, a hairdresser in East Beirut thinks Jumblatt might deliver more.

"I think so, Walid Jumblatt have only five persons," said Mitri.

Samir works in a Beirut hotel. He says he thinks Jumblatt will deliver all eleven of the deputies in his bloc to the opposition.

"Well a hundred percent I guess this time," said Samir.  "… Jumblatt is very smart. He just wants to be in the safe way. No matter [if] it gets worse, he just wants to be safe."

Analysts are also weighing in.  Michael Young is the Opinion Editor for the English-language newspaper The Daily Star.

"I think while the numbers are not precise, I think six or seven of his MPs will vote with Omar Karami for prime minister," said Young.  "He will not be able to bring all his bloc over perhaps to back Karami, but he I think he will bring enough to ensure that Karami wins."

Lebanese American University Political Science Professor Imad Salamey agrees.

"So far it's being said that actually Jumblatt will sway seven votes not in favor of Hariri, however, the Hezbollah will nominate," said Salamey.  "So it seems that the prime minister-to-be will be winning nomination on one or two votes, that is about it. Very close call."

Until very recently, Jumblatt supported the premiership of Saad Hariri. Michael Young thinks his recent switch was done under pressure.

"I think he had absolutely no choice," added Young.  "I don't think he would consider it a good move. I don't think Jumblatt wanted to get rid of Hariri. Last week he made it clear that he would back Hariri. But in a week he was basically threatened it seems, and he had to go along with the candidate of the opposition of Hezbollah, and it seems at least from now that it will be Omar Karami."

Asked if consultations would go ahead Monday, LAU Professor Imad Salamey said he does not think they will be postponed for further negotiations, because he believes Hezbollah and Syria want to move ahead.

"They seem very determined to switch political directions in Lebanon in favor of their camp, particularly March 8," noted Salamey.  "They seem also determined to marginalize Hariri and his group. Now the extent to which they can succeed in this is still a matter to be seen."

If Jumblatt plays kingmaker on Monday and the Hezbollah-led opposition candidate succeeds the analysts say Lebanon could be entering a very dark period. They warn that a Hezbollah-led government will isolate the country from the United States and European Union, as well as Sunni Arab governments in the region, having both economic and political repercussions in Lebanon.

NEW: Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regreti
X
Zana Omer
March 28, 2015 1:19 AM
Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Virginia Tavern Takes Patrons Back to Medieval Times

European martial arts are not widely practiced and are unknown by most people. A tavern in Old Town Alexandria, outside Washington, wants to change this by promoting these fighting techniques from medieval times. Through combining visual arts, martial arts and culinary arts, this tavern brings medieval history back to life. VOA's Yang Lin and Helen Wu report.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More