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Lebanon: The Circumstances and the Customs.

Byline: Abdullah Iskandar

There is a campaign taking place in Lebanon against the Maronite Patriarch, in part explicit, and in another implicit. While the first aspect of this campaign is being instigated by some Christians, specifically certain Maronite parties, the other part is being initiated by non-Christian sides, specifically Hezbollah.

Let us say from the beginning that this campaign has nothing to do what so ever with religious creed, or competition between religions. Rather, it is targeting the post of the Maronite patriarchy itself, and what this fundamental symbol embodies in the Lebanese entity ever since its inception. Therefore, it is not a coincidence that this campaign was escalated against the patriarch as soon as he talked about the threat posed to the Lebanese entity, on the eve of the recent parliamentary elections.

His talk and stances were thus deliberately understood to be within the political adversity and competition associated with the elections. This is while he was in fact tackling a threat that menaces the Lebanese political regime that regulates the peaceful coexistence amongst the different sects and confessions, all on the basis of the Tai'f Accord. In other words, the purpose behind this was to undermine the [Patriarch's] warning that was expressing a general national concern, and which pertains to the entity and the regime themselves. The aim was also to interpret this warning as interference in political conflicts, and as siding with one group in the elections, against another.

Most probably, Sayyed Nasrallah's blunt response to Sfayr was a part of this belittlement of the Patriarch's warning, especially that he limited the meaning of his national concern to be exclusively the Israeli threat and the need to support the resistance. As such, he [Nasrallah] overlooked the meaning of coexistence and the need to organize it according to the constitution. He also portrayed that this latter issue was fabricated, and that it should thus be removed from discussion.

However, despite the results of the elections, and as manifested by the obstacles currently obstructing the formation of the government, the main internal issue was confirmed to be quintessentially about the political regime itself.

Meanwhile, the Head of Hezbollah parliamentary bloc Mohammad Raed, was interviewed by An-Nahar in yesterday's issue. In his defense of the patriarch's Christian opponent, General Michel Aoun, and the latter's insistence on appointing his son-in-law in the cabinet, Raed expressed the problem facing the Lebanese regime by saying : "Certain circumstances govern this country, and these circumstances are more important that any customs." This means, according to Raed, that the priority should be given to the circumstance, i.e. the de facto situation on the ground, and not to the customs that govern some of the functions of the constitutional institutions. It can be thus concluded that the campaign against Sfayr not only targets his political position, but also the equation by which the political customs in Lebanon are established, and which the patriarchy is defending seeing that they represent the pillars of the entity.

While the patriarchy is at the forefront of this campaign, and was thus requested to formally apologize for what Sfayr said about the threats posed to the entity, the constitutional institutions are suffering from the effects of this same campaign, starting with the presidency, then the parliament, and the premiership. In addition, while President Suleiman has not been targeted directly yet - perhaps due to the reasons pertaining to the way he took office and his calm approach and consensual talk that embarrasses his critics - the post of the presidency itself has been targeted.

This happened by depicting this post as a side to the conflict, rather than a symbol for the country's unity and institutions, and one that looks after the constitutional principles, while rising above all political conflicts.

As such, some sides speak about the president's share in the cabinet (and how entitled he is to obtain this share and how he should be represented). Even Aoun considered that this share over-represents the popular support for the president, and thus started quibbling with the presidency over who should supervise the key portfolios.

Meanwhile, and as far as the parliament is concerned- which has been shut down before - it is yet to restore its role as a key part of the work of the institutions. While the current pretext is the need to wait for the cabinet to be formed, some sides in the parliament are busy with their sizes and demands, something that further obstructs the cabinet formation.

This is how it comes to pass that the cabinet and its prime minister are hostages of the de facto forces which Raed labeled as "circumstances", and which will thus govern the cabinet formation. This deprives the prime minister-designate of a genuine constitutional right.

There is therefore an intertwined chain of campaigns that targets the symbols of the Lebanese entity, its political regime, as well as the constitutional procedures that govern itC*

2009 Media Communications Group

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Publication:Dar Al Hayat, International ed. (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Aug 26, 2009
Previous Article:Ayoon Wa Azan (Integration is a Must).
Next Article:Lebanese Economic Growth amid the Political Paralysis.

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