Lebanon Cabinet: Hezbollah and Suleiman Change the Equation

To their surprise, March 14 discovered that Hezbollah was not at all prepared to sacrifice their Aounist ally.

Published Wednesday, April 17, 2013
After a failed attempt to present his line-up for a new cabinet, prime minister-designate Tammam Salam is reconsidering his options in light of new regional developments.

Political commentators were not far off when they predicted that the formation of a new government would prove difficult, even after the relatively quick process of naming a new prime minister.

After a clumsy first attempt at imposing a list of his own choice, Tammam Salam was convinced to take more time for consultation, especially after Hezbollah insisted that a new government be made up of all the political parties according to their weight in parliament.

March 14 had initially believed it had the upper hand in forming the new government. It believed that Hezbollah had pressured its ally, Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), into naming Salam in order to help defuse mounting Sunni-Shia tensions in the country.

Despite the fact that Salam was not their first choice by any means, March 14 managed to turn him into their candidate, taking the initiative in naming their preferred ministers, accompanied by a campaign to exclude the FPM altogether.

To their surprise, March 14 discovered that Hezbollah was not at all prepared to sacrifice their Aounist ally. The Shia party is reported to have even asked for a veto share – one-third of the cabinet – for March 8 and the FPM. Otherwise, Hezbollah sources said, the minority can rule on its own, while they and their allies will become the opposition.

Those close to Hezbollah say the party is far more at ease these days given the new developments taking place in Syria. To begin with, the party no longer feels the need to hide that some of its fighters are involved in Syria, even though it is under the guise of protecting Lebanese villages and Shia shrines.

The party is also said to be quite comfortable about the trajectory of events in Syria, where the regime has managed to regain the initiative on the ground and has scored a series of gains across the country against opposition fighters.

The developments next door mean that Hezbollah is not under any pressure to quickly form a new government, for time is increasingly on its side.

Even Lebanese President Michel Suleiman seems to have adjusted his position of supporting Salam’s efforts by asking him to take some time for consultation instead of unilaterally imposing a list of candidates.

It appears that Walid Jumblatt played a key role in tempering the president’s position, not out of any deference to Aoun, but rather due to the Druze leader’s conviction that it is neither to his or the president’s advantage to antagonize Hezbollah at the moment.

Like Hezbollah, the president is not in any rush to form a new government, especially one that will not provide him with the necessary cover to finish out the last year of his term on a high note.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

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