The months passed, the leaders met, the problem still unresolved. Lebanon remains in a political vacuum as rival politicians have – yet again – failed to agree on a consensus candidate to fill the Presidency. Speaker of the House Nabih Berri could not get the majority and the opposition to come to an agreement. Former President Emile Lahoud advised the Army to exercise emergency rule over the country, but the Constitution states that the Prime Minister, currently Fouad Siniora, holds the top post until a President is decided upon. Parliament is due to meet Friday in another attempt to elect the president. The following is Part II of a two part series on Lebanon’s presidential crisis.

Just a quick re-cap from Part I of this article

Lebanon was given independence from Syria in 1943. The Western powers at the time (France and Britain) wanted to create a pro-Western, majority Christian, country to balance Islamic influence in the Middle East.

The Lebanese political system is one based on Confessionalism, which divides power amongst the percentage of different religious groups.

Lebanon endured a 15-year Civil War from 1975-1990, as adverse religious and political parties fought for control.

The Christians and Muslims currently share seats in parliament equally.

Hezbollah has slowly gained support and been integrated in the political system.

The 1990’s proved to be a period of rebuilding for the Lebanese. Infrastructure was strengthened, Real Estate was invested in, and the work force slowly re-built the Lebanese economy. One of the main leaders of the rebuilding was billionaire businessman (and later Prime Minister) Rafik Hariri, a Sunni Muslim from the Southern port city of Sidon or Saida. He was gaining influence and power over the Lebanese political system, threatening the Syrian strong-hold on the country. This all ended with his assassination in February of 2005 when his motorcade was targeted with over 1,000 kg of TNT. The ensuing result – a massive civilian uprising dubbed the Cedar Revolution calling for the resignation of certain political and security officials, the organization of free parliamentary elections, and the withdrawal of all Syrian forces from Lebanese territories. The pro-Syrian government was also disbanded, and the people called on more accountability from their representatives.


March 8 Coalition
In response to the massive anti-Syrian revolt, the different pro-Syrian parties in the Lebanese political arena organized a mass rally in downtown Beirut.
March 14 Coalition
On March 14, 2005 – the one month anniversary of Hariri’s assassination – another massive civil demonstration took place in downtown Beirut, uniting the Lebanese people and calling on the removal of Syrian presence. As a result, a political bloc dubbed the March 14 coalition was created.
New elections followed with the March 14 winning the majority and the March 8 bloc representing the minority in parliament. Although many would argue that the opposition is necessary to balance government power and keep officials honest, it has only succeeded at paralyzing the government for the past year as Hezbollah and rival Christian MP’s have boycotted parliament sessions.

2006 Israeli War
This government remained in power until the summer of 2006, with the war between Hezbollah and Israel. After resisting the brunt of IDF attacks, Hezbollah was praised around the nation for standing up to the Israeli Goliath. The Shiite movement gained popularity and respect among many Lebanese and began its mission to gain control within the political system. Hezbollah teamed up with the Christian Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and leader Michel Aoun. Together they created the opposition which has boycotted the government, stymieing business as well as government institutions including education and health. The opposition is against cutting ties with its Syrian neighbor and opposed to allying with Western powers. They want more control over parliament and veto power on important issues which affect their supporters. This has made political progress almost impossible, and most recently has delayed the election of a new President – whose post is currently vacant.

Hezbollah was originally created as a resistance group to fend off Israeli invasions in the south of Lebanon. Now that Hezbollah has succeeded in driving the Israeli forces out, it is only logical that they slowly disarm their militant wing, as the Lebanese army is built strong enough to protect Lebanon’s borders. However, Hezbollah has been hesitant at doing so, and it does not appear to be in their agenda. Hezbollah is simply a proxy used by Syria and Iran to fight Israel. As long as their ‘masters’ continue to arm and fund them, they have no other role in Lebanon.

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, it is vital that as many resources as possible go towards strengthening the Lebanese armed forces. This is the only way to remove weapons from the streets, as no one will have an excuse anymore to be armed. The Lebanese Army must be intent on protecting the fragile country’s sovereignty, and restoring order to the biggest zoo on the planet.

Divisions among the Lebanese leaders have created a political vacuum and have weakened the Lebanese government to a point where it barely has enough cabinet members to hold parliament sessions. A weak Lebanese government opens the country up to foreign intervention including the US, Europe, Syria, and possibly Israel. This would be the worst case scenario for a fragile country. It has proved, over the decades, to be a formula of destruction as foreign intervention only complicates matters and divides the Lebanese instead of uniting them as a nation.
Lebanon has been an important experiment in a volatile Middle East ruled by tyrants. It is the only democratic system in the region, and the only place where its citizens have more freedoms than many would dream of. This of course has had its setbacks, as security in the country has always been difficult to achieve.
As pessimistic as I may sound, the future of Lebanon looks dismal. The feuding tribes will never truly reach a genuine agreement. Problems in Lebanon are only delayed, seldom solved. The country’s political structure paired with constant foreign interference will never bring Lebanon stability. There need to be fundamental grassroots movements that hold their representatives responsible. The people of Lebanon have never gotten a fair shake from their leaders. It is time for them to take power into their own hands, to bring their country back to its potential. Once a thriving hub for business and leisure, Lebanon is now stuck in a quagmire of greed and corruption. Maybe I am wrong, I hope I am wrong. But for now, it is safe to say that Lebanon remains a chaotic sandbox, for the world’s bullies to fight in.


Some information used in this article was taken with permission from the United States Institute Of Peace. Article – ‘Lebanon’s Confessionalism: Problems And Prospects’ by Imad Harb, March 2006. This can be found under
the section, USI Peace Briefings.

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