Sunday 22 Jul 2018 | 01:16 | SYDNEY
Sunday 22 Jul 2018 | 01:16 | SYDNEY

Just when you thought Lebanon couldn't get any worse


Rodger Shanahan


21 April 2008 14:36

With parliament not having met in over a year, government business paralysed since the withdrawal of Shi’a members of cabinet in November 2006 and with 17 unsuccessful attempts to elect a president since Emile Lahoud stepped down in November last year, one could be forgiven for thinking the soap opera that is Lebanese politics could not get any more farcical.

That was until the current Army Chief of Staff (and putative consensus presidential nominee) General Michel Suleiman recently indicated his intention to step down as army chief three months early, on 21 August. If he carries out his threat, the non-functioning Lebanese political system could mean that his Druze deputy, Major-General Shawki al-Masri assumes the role by default. Although not constitutionally dictated, the position of Army Chief of Staff has traditionally been reserved for the Maronite community.

If a Druze takes over, the internecine political rivalries among the Christian minority could well rob them of their two most powerful positions: the vacant  presidency, and now the Chief of Staff. General Suleiman’s threat reveals his frustration at the political impasse, and is likely designed as another wake-up call to the warring political factions. General Suleiman has been adept at maintaining the unity of the military in the absence of meaningful political support, and his early absence is something that all parties should wish to avoid. Still, rationality has not always been a strong point of Lebanese politicians.