Thursday 19 Jul 2018 | 10:39 | SYDNEY
Thursday 19 Jul 2018 | 10:39 | SYDNEY

Lebanon: They said we'd never make it


Rodger Shanahan


14 July 2008 15:31

Nothing is ever easy in Lebanese politics. The formation of a new cabinet has been five weeks in the making, as various factions firstly try to gain their own piece of the thirty-person pie, and then squabble over who gets what piece. The new cabinet features 16 members appointed by the parliamentary majority, eleven by the opposition and three by the president, in accordance with the agreement hammered out in Doha.

This in effect gave the Hizbullah-led opposition veto powers in the new government, something Hizbullah had long sought. While only one cabinet position in the new government went to a Hizbullah member (Muhammad Fneish is Minister for Labour), the other two places ‘reserved’ for them were allocated by the party to their parliamentary supporters. Regardless of how many cabinet seats Hizbullah obtained, given its militia strength, access to resources and organizational discipline, there is no doubt who the main player in the opposition is. 

Despite all the wrangling to firstly come up with a president and now with a cabinet so that the process of government could recommence, the bitter truth is that this cabinet is likely to be effectively tasked with one job only – the passing of an electoral law for the parliamentary elections to be held in spring 2009. This is reflected in the President’s choice of a non-parliamentarian to fill the position of Interior Minister. There is little doubt that lawyer Ziyad Baroud is a technocrat who comes well qualified to fill the role.

Following the elections, a new cabinet will be sworn in, with the opposition groups claiming they will then form the parliamentary majority. In this atmosphere, and with so little time available to them, this cabinet is likely at best to provide Lebanon’s political players with a year to draw breath before they commence, once again, to distribute political power among themselves.