The Lebanese Cabinet Crisis

Lebanon’s political stagnation is not a surprise given the history but  after such a peaceful election in June that created a pretty much uncontested winner in the March 14 coalition it was not implausible to think that a cabinet would be formed without too much hassle. If not only because the reasons that allowed for a peaceful election continue namely Saudi-Syrian reconciliation carries on slowly, but for the moment surely, and the Doha agreement has more or less maintained the tone of reconciliation among Lebanese at all levels. It is clear that the Lebanese political actors do not want confrontation at the moment, with the great exception of Aoun who after a disappointing election is being as bellicose as ever.

However, Lebanon despite all the reconciliation in the air is haunted by the big issues that have not been addressed in any of the political reconciliation talks and that continue to create paralysis:

1. The weapons of Hezbollah
2. The International Tribunal

These two massive issues are the central reason blocking the formation of the government. The telecommunication ministry is being the centre piece of the fight. Hezbollah’s telecommunication network that was essentially the cause of the May fighting of 2008 does have some overlap in the ministry, in which the FPM gave access to the telecommunication network in the Ministry. Also there is the issue of being able to monitor phone calls, this is useful for both political coalitions but for Hariri it is particularly important for evidence for the International Tribunal. The Guardian makes this latter point and also states how the Ministry is also going to be important as the privatization of the two state run mobile phone networks will soon occur raising a possible $4.2 billion.

Qifa Nabki argues that the current crisis is to do with the architecture of the political system in Lebanon and focuses on the internal argument. But the current paralysis rests on these two almost existential issues that are bigger than the internal structure of Lebanese politics. The big issues continue to haunt Lebanon and there appears to be no end in sight. Hariri will no doubt try to push through a technocrat government which appears to be the only road to go down. Lebanon suffers from internal issues that are bigger than itself and are unlikely to be solved through internal means.

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