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


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

Video Obama: Action on Climate Change 'Economic, Security Imperative'

President spoke to reporters on sidelines of UN Climate Summit outside Paris, where leaders are working to agree on binding measures

IMF Bets on China’s Resolve to Reform

IMF announcement already raising questions about just how much Beijing is committed to such reforms

What Happened When I Landed in Antarctica

Refael Klein chronicles what it's like to visit one of the coldest, most desolate places on Earth

This forum has been closed.
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.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs