Tuesday 22 November 2016

Independence Day in Lebanon. Today Lebanon celebrates the 73rd anniversary of it independence, which came in 1943 after France gave up its UN mandate that had been granted after the end of World War 1 and the break up of the Ottoman Empire.

I have been abroad since 27 October and so have not been updating this blog as much as I should. During my absence, Lebanon finally managed to elect a president after a 30 month hiatus during which time political and government activity had been virtually paralysed. It has been said that Michel Aoun is a “president made in Lebanon” but would Saad Hariri have supported his election without the tacit approval of Saudi Arabia? And would Hizbollah have allowed it without getting a green light from Iran?

Prime Minister designate, Saad Hariri has been trying to form a government since 1 November, so far without success. He had hoped to complete his task by today, Independence Day; it is reported that he and the President have agreed on the composition of the cabinet, but that finalisation is being blocked by some political groups.

The thoughts of British Ambassador the Lebanon, Hugo Shorter, can be read by following this link:-

http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/author/hugoshorter/

 

 

Saturday 29 October 2016

I leave Lebanon later today for a trip to Bangladesh and Myanmar. Of course, I shall be following events relating to the election of a president here closely over the next few days – and the post election developments as well.

The following link gives a little information that may be of interest: –

http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/219314-a-guide-to-presidential-elections-in-lebanon

There are rumors that Suleiman Franjieh, originally proposed as a candidate for the presidency late last year by Saad Hariri, is being pressured to withdraw from the process.

And what happens if a president is elected on Monday. The present Salaam government becomes a caretaker government; It is widely expected that Hariri will be asked to form a new government, a process that, based on previous experience, could take months of political wrangling among the factions to decide which group get which ministries. Salaam took 10 months to form the present cabinet and the last time that Hariri was Prime Minister it took him five months.

And then what about parliament – will there be a new election law or will parliamentary election be held under the existing 1960 law.

Watch this space.

Tuesday 24 October 2016

The alternative presidential candidate to Michel Aoun, Suleiman Franjieh, has announced that he is not withdrawing his candidacy so it looks as though there may actually be a contest on October 31st. Or he may be “persuaded” to withdraw before then; who knows.

Meanwhile, the prospect of Saad Hariri being asked to form a government is very much on everyone’s mind. Could he do for Lebanon now what his father achieved on the 1990s? This article discusses the issue: –

http://www.thenational.ae/business/new-economic-era-or-just-a-false-dawn-for-lebanon

 

Monday 24 October 2016

The chances of Michel Aoun being elected president of Lebanon when parliament convenes on 31 October seem to be increasing. Although many members of Saad Hariri’s Future Movement are unhappy with his giving his endorsement to Aoun, it is reported this morning that at present only 5 Future MPs will vote against Aoun: –

http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/218990-saniora-mustaqbal-mps-rejecting-aoun-s-nomination-dropping-to-five

Of course there is still likely to be a second candidate – Suleiman Franjieh, unless he can be persuaded to withdraw.

Assuming that a president is elected next Monday it is likely that parliamentary elections will be held within a few months. The present parliament has twice extended its own term due to the absence of a president. Parliament is elected for a term of four years. The last election was in 2009; its term was extended in June 2013 to Nov 2014 and then to June 2017. The following article about the members may be of interest: –

http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/22467

Whenever the next parliamentary elections are held, there will undoubtedly be arguments about the election law. The present law dates from 1960 and many believe that it is long due for change. But in reality since the present law seems to suit all interested parties, change is unlikely.

 

Sunday 23 October

Improving the environment is not something close to the hearts of many in Lebanon. One only has to look at the litter to be found in every street, the issues surrounding garbage disposal (or lack thereof) in the last 18 months and the air polution that is so obvious in the skies over Beirut when viewed from a distance.

Perhaps there is some hope, as this article from today’s Daily Star, suggests: –

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2016/Oct-23/377765-thousands-participate-in-massive-litani-river-clean-up-effort.ashx?utm_medium=email&utm_source=transactional&utm_campaign=Newsletter

Saturday 22 October 2016

Continuing the saga of the election of a Lebanese president, The National has published the following article –

http://www.thenational.ae/world/middle-east/hariri-backs-foe-aoun-for-lebanese-presidency

Debate is now intense; will Hariri’s endorsement lead to the election when the next scheduled vote takes place on 31 October?  Rumors say that Saudi Arabia is unhappy with Hariri’s action, but it is hard to believe that he would have done it without clearing it with Riyadh.  Many of his fellow Sunni MPs are very unhappy and could well cast blank votes or vote against Aoun; Amal Movement leader and Parliament Speaker, Nabih Berri is also very unhappy has has vowed not to vote for Aoun, but has told the candidate that he will not deny the voting session a quorum; Druze leader Walid Jumblat is meeting his 11 members of parliament today to discuss the matter. This group, sometimes referred to as “kingmakers” could decide the matter; John Kerry, while welcoming the initiative, has doubts that it will lead the election of a president; What will be the attitude of Aoun’s long time ally Hizbollah?

Watch this space for continuing comments.

 

Friday 21 October 2016

I am back after a very long time, but from  now on expect regular postings in this Blog.

Lebanon has been without a president since May 2014, when the term of Michel Suleiman expired. Since then parliament, which elects the president in Lebanon has failed to elect a successor in spite of over 40 attempts. Sessions called by the Speaker for the purpose of a presidential election have never been quorate because of a boycott by the supporters of Michel Aoun. Yesterday the following article was published, speculating on the possibility of Saad Hariri endorsing Aoun in attempt to end the stalemate.

http://www.thenational.ae/opinion/comment/hizbollah-blocks-the-long-search-for-a-president

A few hours later Hariri did indeed announce his support for the election of Aoun and now all thoughts are centered on what will happen on 31 October, when the next session of parliament has been called for the purpose of electing a president. Aoun’s success is by no means certain – there is still another candidate in the running – Suleiman Franjieh – and there are many who oppose Aoun.

 

 

Sunday 10 July 2011

Back after a long time.

Lebanon at last has a new government, after nearly six months of haggling over who gets which ministry. It is no surprise that the composition of the new cabinet is markedly pro-Syrian and contains a majority of members who support Hizbullah. It is the first time for a long time that the country has a government which does not attempt to be one of “National Unity”, embracing all parts of the political spectrum, and this may mean that it can take decisions – maybe even controversial ones! The new opposition has vowed to do everything possible to bring down the government, but given that it has the support of a majority of members of parliament, it is difficult to see how this could be achieved by constitutional means, unless Mr Jumblat changes sides again.

There is much for the government to do, if only to clear the backlog of issues that have accumulated since the previous government was ousted in January. Top of the list is the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), set up by the UN in 2007 to investigate the 2005 assassination of Rafic Hariri and prosecute those responsible. It is difficult to believe that it is a coincidence that the STL’s first indictments, said to name 4 Hizbullah members, were delivered to the Minister of Justice while the cabinet was discussing the clause in its policy statement concering its position on the STL. Much publicity was given to the names said to be in the indictment, which were leaked to the media with remarkable speed. Hizbullah, naturally, denies that those indicted were involved and says that there is no way that they will ever be handed over to the court by Lebanon. This, in any case, is academic, as those named almost certainly left Lebanon long ago for Syria and/or Iran.