The tribunal, Hariri and Hizbullah: the whole story

Marc Sirois illustrates with an excellent article on Merip why the Daily Star was actually worth reading back when he was its editor in chief – and before Hariri bought it and turned it into another Future mouthpiece. Read the entire piece here: “The government collapse started with the defection of MP and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, a March 14 stalwart since the alliance’s formation following Rafiq al-Hariri’s death, and six members of his Democratic Gathering. Jumblatt, whose adherence to the Hariri camp had constituted a major departure from his record, had been increasingly at odds with some March 14 stances since August 2009. Now he completed his volte-face, opining that the Tribunal could not deliver justice because it had degenerated into a “bazaar of blackmail and counter-blackmail.”  Absent other changes Jumblatt’s defection would have deadlocked Parliament, with both March 8 and March 14 commanding 64 seats.

But then former Maronite warlord Samir Geagea announced that his Lebanese Forces party would stand by Hariri. He also ridiculed the expected March 8 candidate, veteran former Prime Minister Omar Karami, and this outburst probably ruined Hariri’s chances. Karami is the younger brother of the late Rashid Karami, another slain premier whose assassination in 1987 is widely attributed to the aforementioned Geagea. Rashid Karami was a highly respected statesman, particularly in the northern city of Tripoli, which he represented — and it so happens that a couple of more independent-minded MPs, people on whose votes March 14 had been counting, hail from the same place. Geagea’s comments were taken as an insult to the memory of one of Tripoli’s favorite sons. If even one of the Tripoli bloc had bolted, March 8 would have been in the driver’s seat. One of these Tripoli MPs was Najib Miqati, a telecommunications tycoon whose brief tenure as interim prime minister in 2005 earned him considerable credit for managing the first elections held after Syrian forces withdrew following the elder Hariri’s death. Shortly after Geagea’s attack on Karami, Miqati announced that he had put his name forward as a compromise candidate. This move earned him all manner of accusations from the Hariri camp, which sent its supporters into the streets to express their rage at the “traitor.”

Although the pro-Hariri camp has continued to cry “coup,” accused March 8 of sowing sectarian divisions and claimed that the altered balance of power in Parliament violates the will of the electorate, March 8’s maneuver was carried out in accordance with constitutional provisions. The only “violation” was of the pledge made during negotiations in 2008 at Doha that the opposition ministers would not bring down the government. But when their rivals continued to champion the Tribunal, effectively going against their own promise at Doha not to govern unilaterally, the opposition judged themselves free to do so.

So is Miqati really “the Hizballah candidate,” as Future TV, the mouthpiece television station of Hariri’s Future Movement, dismissed him during its evening newscast on January 24? It is hard to see how. At the most basic level, even the walkout that brought Hariri down included just two Hizballah members. The rest came from the Free Patriotic Movement (4), Amal (3) and former cabinet minister Suleiman Franjieh’s Marada grouping — plus one non-aligned minister, ‘Adnan Sayyid Husayn. Even when Jumblatt’s change of allegiance made Hariri’s ouster possible, March 8’s preferred candidate was the aging Karami, certainly more friendly to their interests but hardly a Hizballah puppet. There were still plenty of congenial Sunni politicians to pick from, but these men were bypassed in favor of Miqati precisely because he was thought capable of gaining consensus support.’

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