Tuesday 27 December 2016

Lebanon’s parliament today begins the first of three days debate on the new government’s policy statement and, in due course is expected to give a vote of confidence in the new government, enabling it to start working on the many problems facing it and the country.

Theoretically, parliamentary elections should be held in May 2017, so this government’s life may well be very short. But, also theoretically, the holding of these elections is dependent on the adoption of a new electoral law, and opinions on just what the provisions of this law should be are very divided. In the absence of a new law, again theoretically, the elections should be held under the terms of the existing 1960 law, but several groups are opposed to this. The outcome is anyone’s guess.

Meanwhile, this article is an interesting end-of-year report on the country: –

http://www.thenational.ae/business/economy/year-in-review-lebanon-made-an-admirable-effort-in-2016-but-must-do-better

 

Tuesday 20 December 2016

Not only a new president but now, 45 days after he was tasked with the job, a relatively short period in recent Lebanese history, Prime Minister Saad Hariri has managed to form a government. It includes all political groups except the Kataeb party, which declined to take part.

The next task is to formulate the government’s policy statement, always a thorny subject in view of the differences between the various factions, and gain a vote of confidence from parliament. The Speaker, Nabih Berri, has targeted the period between Christmas and New Year to do this. We shall see.

The main task facing the new government will be agree on a new electoral law prior to the next scheduled parliamentary elections in May 2017. Debate has been going on for a long time about a new law to replace the present one dating from 1960, and parliament has twice extended its own term since the last elections under that law were held in 2009.

Getting agreement on the new law will be difficult as no group will want to approve a system that might negatively affect its representation in parliament. And, of course, the confessional distribution of seats agreed as part of the Taif Accord that ended the civil war in 1990, will have to be respected. If any agreement is to be reached it will probably be a compromise formula embracing both proportional representation and the “first past the post” concept. No doubt it will be a uniquely Lebanese solution that will satisfy most people for the time being, but no rock the boat too much.

 

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