Lebanese politicians contemplate power-sharing plan

Politicians in Lebanon expressed doubt over power-sharing plan tabled by Sunni politician Saad Hariri to end presidential vacuum

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Lebanese Christian politician and leader of the Marada movement Suleiman Franjieh (R) meets with Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb (C), who is sitting next to an advisor, at his house in Bnechi, northern Lebanon December 7, 2015

Talks over the proposed power sharing plan in Lebanon, appears to be heavily contemplated by politicians. The plan is aimed at ending Lebanon's 18 month long presidential vacuum that actively contributed to the immense political standstill in the country.

Drafted by Sunni politician Saad Hariri who enjoys Saudi support, the plan was initially welcomed by many parties although it pushes forward a presidential candidate, Suleiman Franjieh, who enjoys a close friendship with Syrian regime president Bashar al Assad.

Saudi Arabia backs Hariri’s plan, although the kingdom is a stringent critic or the brutal Assad regime. The plan sees Hariri reprising his past post of prime minister in Franjieh government.

Lebanon’s political atmosphere is heavily influenced with the religious and ideological backgrounds of political parties and politicians, divided into Shiite Islam, backed by Saudi’s regional rival Iran. And Sunni Islam, backed by Saudi Arabia and the US. Maronite Christianity also wields tremendous power in the Lebanese political arena, the presidential seat in Lebanon is reserved for Maronite Christian candidates. Prime Minister seat reserved for Sunnis, and government speaker post is reserved for Shiite politicians.

Although the power sharing plan gained initial support last week from both Iran and Saudi Arabia, the regional powers showing extensive interest in the fate of Lebanese politics, conflict over the validity of the plan still strongly exists.

Former Lebanese president Amin Gemayel said there were no "ready solutions", in reference to the plan. Gemayel said so after he met Michel Aoun, a veteran Christian politician whose blessing is seen as crucial to concluding the deal.

Aoun is a Maronite Christian politician, also vying for presidency, and enjoys the support of Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran. Aoun is 80 years old, and enjoys a close friendship with Franjieh, despite probable presidential rivalry.

"It appears that matters are not going very smoothly at the current time. We have a responsibility as Lebanese leaders in general, and as Christians in particular. We cannot leave the country to stumble in this way," Gemayel said.

Lebanese Christian politician and leader of the Marada movement Suleiman Franjieh meets with Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb (unseen) at his house in Bnechi, northern Lebanon December 7, 2015.

If Hezbollah shifted its support to 50 year old Franjieh, chances of Hariri’s power sharing plan coming into reality will exponentially increase. But Hezbollah has so far stuck by its support for the Aoun and made clear it will not force Aoun to give way to Franjieh.

Lawmaker Ali Khreis, a member of the Amal Movement led by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, said the Franjieh proposal was still serious, but "it has not yet been decided."

"We have a golden opportunity to get out of the crisis of the presidential vacancy and if we don't seize it there will be no president for one year or two years," he told Sawt El Shaab, a Lebanese radio station, on Tuesday.

"The terms of the settlement are not yet mature," he added.

December 16 is the date by which the Lebanese parliament is due to convene, with the sole aim of electing a president, by then, the power sharing plan’s validity is expected to be determined.

30 previous sessions have failed to elect a president.

Any power-sharing deal is expected to include an agreement on a law for parliamentary elections.

Senior official in the Future Movement, led by Hariri, said if the power sharing plan failed to gain acceptance in the parliament, Lebanon may risk repeating its 1975-90 civil war.

"If the initiative fails to reach a settlement and the vacuum continues for a number of months, the president of the republic will not be elected easily, but will be elected through blood," said Ahmad al-Hariri, a cousin of Saad Hariri.

"Do we want to repeat a second civil war?"

TRTWorld and agencies