by Nasser Kandil
The Lebanese Parliament Majority stands before the scenario of a new Lebanese government in a changing international and regional climate. Expressive of the most nationalistic views among all the other Lebanese political power groups, it faces a crucial test equivalent in magnitude to its responsibilities. This Majority supports Al Mukawama, and defends Lebanese independence in the face of subjugation schemes titled on one occasion as “neutrality” and on many others as complete surrender to American demands which begin and end with the full preservation of Israeli interests.
The considerable responsibility carried by this Parliamentarian Majority includes an awareness of the changes resulting from the West’s fear of Lebanon moving towards choices defines by French President Emanuel Macron as “the West’s loss of this sensitive spot in the East Mediterranean,” and described as “strategic competition” by the U.S. Diplomat Jeffrey Feltman. Included in these changes is the West’s calculation of risks associated with the confrontation with Al Mukawama Axis, at its head Iran, and a dissension about ways of confrontation, in which settlement offers is one considered way of confrontation, where Lebanon becomes a major experimental field to test chances for their success.
Everything points to the world and the region swimming in muddy swaps filled with surprises, Lebanon and the region dancing on a hot tin roof, uncertainty of outcomes, and experimental balloons rather than final policies. For those reasons, the Parliamentarian Majority’s bigger responsibility lies in not falling prey to fantasies about an end to confrontation, or any decisive settlement, or the positioning of the West outside of the language of pressure, or of favoring unilateral investments to improve economic conditions at the price of political concessions as long as immutable tenets of sovereignty remain untouched.
Considerations in the formation of a new government come within the context of this scenario of changes and uncertainty. Among these considerations is the possibility of a representative government, or one acceptable to, if not representative of, all major political factions. In all cases, what is being considered is a government which ends the political fragmentation which followed the resignation of the unity government headed by Saa’d Al Hariri before the October 17 uprising.
Prior to any discussion of hypotheses and possibilities, chief of which is about the naming of a Prime Minister to head the new government, a major question should be asked about the failure in governing by the Majority’s choices, before and after it became a Majority in Parliament, and before and after a team member became President, and when it shared the government with its opponents, and on the occasion it exclusively participated in the formation of the government.
Any fair review will reveal that the defect does not lie in the opponents or in circumstances but in these power groups’ considerations related to groupings, party, or religious sect and unrelated to government. Such considerations resulted in a fragile coalition, incapable of constructing a serious and effective governmental plan. A clear and simple proof is that the dissention in partnership governments which stood in the way of numerous accomplishments, was dissention between the power groups within the Coalition rather than with their opponents. Further proof is that nothing changed when the Majority formed its government. The same disagreements, suspicions, and accusations persisted, and the same failure was reaped. Without rectification of this defect, a replication of such failures is inevitable.
There are serious Lebanese and foreign deliberations about calling on the former Prime Minister Saa’d Al Hariri to form a new government. There are two approaches the Majority can adopt towards this hypothesis. One approach is a familiar one, characterized by giving precedence to categories, party, and sectarian considerations, which it had adopted in the past, and was rewarded with failure. Such approach consists of holding on to a heterogeneous mix during deliberations which separates and goes back to its original groups and their insistence on quotas in projects and in the naming to official positions, and disintegrates anew within the formed government, regardless of who is named as Prime Minister.
Sufficient to consider is the distance separating the Free National Movement from the Marada Movement, and the way the late government was formed without the participation of the Syrian Nationalist and Social Party, and the features of marginalization of the Consultative Gathering in deliberations about governmental options. Such consideration highlights the loss in value of the improvement in the relationship between the Amal and the Free National Movements, which has allowed the success of the Coalition’s prominent Trio in interactions and discussions as one team seeking a unified approach, unless such improvement can guarantee success in changing the approaches adopted thus far to allow a change in outcomes.
Such change is predicated on two conditions. The first is to widen the dialogue and unify the constituents of the Parliamentarian Majority into one political front united in views, positions, and approaches. The second is to put forth a plan for the new government in which priorities take precedence over the naming for positions. Principal among the priorities are (1) a new election law which brings Lebanon closer to a secular country in compliance with Article 22 of the Lebanese Constitution, (2) an economic rebirth based on reinforcing productivity, (3) openness to the oriental depth and to Syria as a priority, (4) openness to the variety in the numerous economic options in the world, at its head China and the plans made possible through cooperation with her, (5) refusal of any exchange of sovereignty for money be it in matters related to the designation of the border lines or in the matters related to the Syrian and Palestinian Refugees.
The most dangerous step the Majority could take would be to believe that it can rest once Prime Minister Hariri or someone similar to him undertakes the formation of a new government acceptable to all, because the responsibilities imposed by the current economic burdens and by an economic resurgence do not lie with the new government alone. Outcomes after a new government is in place will come step by step. A price in sovereignty will be attached to every financial facilitation offered by the West. The Parliamentarian Majority will be blamed each time it rejects such type of offer, or will be pushed into ornamenting such offers only to fall into the many traps set for it. Furthermore, the Majority will be divided as a result of each of its components bargaining of their share in the new government, or in case of the failure to form one and a return to square one, the Majority will be blamed for such failure. It will lose the golden time separating it from new elections. The price it will pay will be the loss of its majority status in a new parliament. Deprived of new election law, it will be driven by the force of the current election law to the loss in its majority on the eve of the Lebanese Presidential election.