By TBY | Lebanon | Jan 28, 2014
RESIGNED TO FATE The last general elections were in June 7, 2009. Hours after the polls had closed, Saad Hariri, the leader of the March 14 coalition, claimed victory, which […]
RESIGNED TO FATE
The last general elections were in June 7, 2009. Hours after the polls had closed, Saad Hariri, the leader of the March 14 coalition, claimed victory, which was confirmed later as his party took 71 seats compared to March 8 alliance, which won 57 seats. However, in January 2011, all elected ministers of the March 8 alliance resigned over the commitment to the Special Tribunal of Lebanon, which was investigating the murder of the former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri. Immediately after the resignations, President Michel Sleiman appointed Najib A. Mikati as the new Prime Minister with the backing of all parties. Mikati was given the job with the main task of reforming the government. To do this, he had to convince the March 8 alliance to work with the March 14 coalition, as it had before. After five months of arduous negotiations, Mikati managed to form a 30-member cabinet, largely dominated by March 8 and its allies, which took 18 seats. After a reshuffle of alliances and parties, the March 8 alliance had 68 seats in the caretaker parliament, though the alliance was formally dissolved in July 2013 after its main members, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), Hezbollah, and Amal went their separate ways.
The president of the republic is elected by parliament for a non-renewable six-year term, and by convention is a member of the Maronite community. The incumbent, President Sleiman, was elected to office in 2008, and previously served as Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces. The prime ministerial office has traditionally been held by a member of the Sunni community, and is appointed by the president on the recommendation of parliament. The prime minister need not be a member of parliament to hold office; yet, he does require a vote of confidence from it to form a government. The current designated Prime Minister, Tammam Salam, was offered the post in April 2013. The previous Prime Minister, Mikati, came to office in June 2011 and tendered his resignation in March over a dispute with Hezbollah on parliamentary elections then set to take place in June 2013, but now postponed to November 2014. Mikati was also increasingly frustrated with the cabinet-level deadlock. The resignation added more uncertainty to an already unstable government, and the possibility of a new permanent government being established seemed to recede further. As of October 2013, Salam was running out of the options and the local press were beginning to doubt his abilities to break the impasse, leaving Mikati as caretaker Prime Minister.
OILING THE WORKS
A major economic motive for breaking the deadlock to form a new government is to begin issuing exploration and drilling leases for the offshore oil and gas reserves. The caretaker Energy and Water Minister, Gebran Bassil, said in October 2013 that the future government should decide on leases and “the issue of oil wealth, which is a national wealth, is one of essential strategic issues for Lebanon and should not be the subject of haste.” This statement was largely in response to a Hezbollah-led campaign launched in March 2013 with the aim to accelerate the exploration and drilling process in Lebanon’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Some people in government believe that Lebanon is being left behind as others around tap into the resources in the Eastern Mediterranean. Licensing was due to take place in May 2013, but without cabinet approval, no licenses were issued. Designated Prime Minister Salam said in September 2013 that he would reconvene the cabinet in an attempt to approve the decrees.
The balance of power in Lebanon is always a complex affair. The pressing need for a breakthrough is clear for fear the country be left behind—or even worse, that other countries syphon off the valuable oil and gas supplies.