The hours of truth…

The Leb politicos did it again: plunging the country and its population into dangerous uncertainty for no good reason other than that they can’t agree on how to divide the spoils and lucrative government posts among each other and don’t want to be the one to give in. A French friend of mine recently compared Lebanese politics to Lebanese traffic. He said: ‘Look, over here (we were in Sanaa, Yemen at the time) people also drive into one-way streets the wrong way, just like in Beirut, but if they meet another car driving in the right direction, they’ll back off and give way. In Lebanon, neither car moves and they just stand there honking their horns, flashing their lights and shouting at each other for hours, until they either get moved by angry drivers behind them, or removed by a passing cop.’ That’s a pretty apt way to describe the current political situation – and just like the drivers in the above scene (which I have witnessed many times in Beirut) don’t give a flying baby shit about the rest of the traffic that gets blocked, the politicians don’t seem to care about the dangerous and explosive situation they are creating in generating this power vacuum. As I am currently in Riyadh, I have to rely on reports friends and colleagues send me from Lebanon. Here’s a random grab.

Balint: ‘Yep, we’re flooded, absolutely pushed under the waves by all sorts of military or semi-military types, including tough-looking civilian blokes who now turn up here and there claiming to be ‘the policeman here,’ asking for identification and going through your stuff. how easily this country can go back to its militia-ridden ways, it is quite amazing. I was up in the Chouf mountains the other day doing touristy things and it’s full of PSP militiamen, blokes with kalashnikovs hanging around every corner. Old Jumblatt doesn’t feel terribly safe even in his mountain hideout, i reckon.’

Nayla: ‘Bart !!!!!!! Leb is in a real danger thats why we are not going to Gemmayze a lot !!!! Honestly i am really angry and depressed cos it seems that i wont be able to go out till the elect a fucking president !!!!’

Up-to-date press reports can be found here and here and the most worrying of them all is here, claiming that Samir Geagea (whose nickname among his Lebanese Forces followers is ‘el hakim’ – ‘the doctor’ – although ‘Doctor Death’ would be more accurate given his civil war past, which is even more insanely murderous than that of his fellow ex-warlords) apparently sees his chance to play a national role again: he calls on parliament to convene right after midnight tonight – when Lahoud’s term expires – to elect a new president. As the opposition – March 8 – already boycotted this morning’s session, that would mean only the (currently) anti-Syrian part of parliament – March 14 – would show up and presumably, in the absence of Berri, elect a president of their choice by simple majority. Which would basically constitute a semi-legal coup, and which would meet with an ‘appropriate response’ from the opposition. Worst case scenario. Slightly better case scenario: Lahoud (as he announces according to the same article) relegates some or all of his powers to Suleyman and the army. Which would also constitute a semi-legal coup, but at least the power would be in the hands of a fairly responsible man who has been strictly guarding the army’s neutrality all through the current conflict. Best case scenario: everybody accepts the current situation for the time being and works out a last-minute compromise by next Friday. In any case, the coming few hours will turn out to be crucial for the immediate and quite possibly the long-term future of Lebanon – and that of its neighbours.


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