Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, January 15th, 2008
Posted by Qifa Nabki
Every four years, voters in the United States are given a glimpse of political strategizing in the form of the media’s ponderings about “electoral math”. Which states are crucial for which candidates? Where should campaign funds be spent? What are the must-win battleground states?
The Lebanese deadlock revolves around a similar piece of algebraic acrobatics: the debate on the makeup of the new cabinet.
Various scenarios have been proposed: we’ve seen 19-10-1, 12-10-8, 14-6-10, and enough other configurations to make one’s head spin. The latest formula is the Arab League’s proposal, to split the cabinet into three equal shares, with ten ministers going to March 14, ten going to the opposition, and ten hand-picked by the president. The beauty of this arrangement is that it would (theoretically) deprive all parties of a “blocking third” (which requires one third plus one vote). In order to veto any initiative – most importantly, the execution of UNSCR 1559 and the charge sheet for the Hariri Tribunal – any side would have to solicit the support of another party.
On the face of it, this arrangement would appear to be a dream deal for Syria’s allies. When March 14 announced its support of Suleiman for president, many commentators close to the opposition trumpeted it as a major victory for Syria. After all, Suleiman has a spotless record on Syrian-Lebanese ‘partnership’ and cooperation, and is a strong supporter of the Lebanese resistance. With the help of Suleiman, Syria would be able to secure the future of Hizbulah’s arms (at least in the short-term), deal a blow to the Tribunal, and potentially bring down the government in the event of another deadlock (according to the Constitution, the government must fall if over 1/3 of the Cabinet resigns).
By all accounts, however, the opposition is strangely not biting. Why? Is it simply because they distrust the full-throated support of Saad al-Hariri? In addition to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the French and Americans have come out in force for the Arab League Proposal, and even Syria had to publicly ‘support’ it, and yet Beirut remains mired in the same muck.
RIYADH (AFP) — French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Monday that Lebanon's political crisis would have to be taken to the United Nations if an Arab League effort to end the impasse failed.
"If it's not working with our friends of the Arab League, we will come back to the UN," Kouchner, who was accompanying French President Nicolas Sarkozy to Riyadh, told reporters.
"But we hope strongly that it will work," he said without elaborating on the possible resort to the UN.
Sarkozy told the Saudi Shura (consultative) Council on Monday that France "unreservedly supports" the Arab League plan, describing it as "fully compatible" with proposals made by France.
"Like Saudi Arabia, France will spare no effort to enable the Lebanese parliament to elect as soon as possible a president which the diverse components of the Lebanese nation will deem representative," he said.
The Arab League's three-point plan calls for the election of army chief Michel Sleiman as president, the formation of a national unity government in which no one party has veto power, and the adoption of a new electoral law.
Hizbullah is still insisting on a veto of its own, while Aoun is now championing a one-man one-vote, power to the people scenario, which makes one wonder whether he is the sole remaining obstacle to an otherwise satisfactory deal for the Syrians. Or do they know something about Suleiman's likely allegiances that the rest of us don’t?