BEIRUT — The prime minister of Lebanon has resigned following a deadlock in his Cabinet about preparations for a parliamentary election and a dispute over extending the term of a senior security official.
Najib Mikati, the Sunni prime minister and billionaire, resigned Friday after his Cabinet failed to approve the formation of a supervisory electoral body and opposed extending the tenure of Internal Security Forces chief Ashraf Rifi. Rifi is a fellow Sunni Muslim who is seen as a critical figure for the Western-backed March 14 coalition.
Imad Salamey, a political science professor at the Lebanese American University in Beirut, says Mikati’s resignation was expected.
"He was fired at from both sides," said Salamey. "He was fired on from his own Sunni community for feeling that he has betrayed them when he accepted the premiership and shifted rank in alliance with Hezbollah and then kind of covering up politically for Hezbollah’s various activities in Lebanon and in Syria."
Salamey says Hezbollah also was dissatisfied with Prime Minister Mikati because the group wanted to replace the security chief, Rifi, whose term is set to expire.
Mikati took office in January 2011 when the Shi’ite political party and militant group Hezbollah brought down the government of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, who was backed by the United States and other Western nations.
Prime Minister Mikati was viewed at first as an ally of Hezbollah, despite being a Sunni, but his government has been criticized by all political parties for its inability to reach consensus.
Salamey says politicians should act quickly to break the deadlock.
"I think it is in the interest of all parties, particularly Hezbollah, and the Shi’ites in Lebanon to have a quick solution to the political impasse," said Salamey. "They need to achieve some kind of reconciliation and political solution with the Lebanese Sunnis."
The political situation in Lebanon has become more fragile as more than 70,000 Syrian refugees have flooded into the country, almost all of whom are Sunni.
Two people were killed Friday in the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli, where fighting between the city’s Sunni majority and Alawites who support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has escalated.