19 September 2009

* Hariri To Try Again

After briefly stepping down last week, Saad  Hariri has been reassigned the task of forming a new cabinet. Hariri had been trying since he was appointed prime minister back in June to come up with a cabinet  line-up that would suit the very fickle political tastes of Lebanon.
Hariri submitted a list to the president for approval on September 8, but the proposal was rejected outright by the opposition because it was not formulated with their consent.

President Suleiman said he would not endorse a cabinet list unless it had opposition support.
Mr. Hariri stepped down the following week, but was reappointed prime minister by his allies in parliament. He then vowed to step up his efforts to resolve the issue.

One of the key sticking points in the opposition is that General Aoun, of the  Free Patriotic Movement, would like to appoint his son-in-law, Gebran Bassil, for the cabinet seat of the telecommunications chief.  Hariri has rejected this on the grounds the Mr. Bassil didn’t win his seat in parliament and therefore should not have a seat in the cabinet.

At least one thing appears to be decided: the distribution of the cabinet seats. The plan is to have 15 seats for Hariri’s March 14 majority, 10 seats for the March 8 minority, and 5 seats to be appointed by the president. There  seems to be a consensus on this.

It appears that the Lebanese government is once again in a state of paralysis, but that may only be the case at the moment. It must be remembered that this is a country divided by relegion in its very constitution, making negotiations extremely difficult for even the most experienced politician. Amongst other things, it will take time to make this happen, and its only been three months since the  parliamentary elections.

Also, Lebanon was without a government for 18 months from 2006 to 2008.  Maybe this will just be another phase in Lebanon’s national reconciliation. Or maybe this sort of political gridlock is the natural state of things here.

One things that is for sure is that nothing will change in Lebanon until the politicians fundamentally change they way the operate. Instead of just thinking about their clan, or party, or district, perhaps they should try thinking about what is good for all the Lebanese people.  In this case, it is a government that  works.

In the end, if an effective government is ever to be formed in Lebanon, the story of how it happened would not be written without two words: compromise and cooperation. Unfortunately, over the last 35 years, those words in Lebanon seem to have become haram. 


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Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.