Monday, June 29, 2009

OxfAn: "Hariri faces unity government challenges"

The army yesterday warned that it would open fire on anyone bearing arms in public after clashes in West Beirut between supporters of Saad al-Hariri, the leader of the pro-Western March 14 coalition and the majority party leader in parliament, and Parliamentary Speaker and Amal leader Nabih Berri. The latter was reappointed speaker on Thursday, and on Saturday Hariri was appointed prime minister-designate. President Michel Suleiman gave Hariri the task after 86 out of 128 MPs backed him for the post. Hariri's bloc had backed Berri's re-election, while Amal backed Hariri for premier. The other 57 March 8 bloc MPs, including Hizbollah and its Christian allies, rejected him. Hariri aims to form another 'national unity' government, but a key stumbling block could be Hizbollah's demand for veto power within it. Recently improved Syrian-Saudi relations may well have facilitated Suleiman's choice of nominee. Key issues such as Hizbollah's arms may have to be set aside if agreement on a unity government is to be reached. Fundamental disagreements over foreign policy and national security could lead to a drawn-out government formation process. In a worst-case scenario, Lebanon could be without a government for months, increasing the risk of violent clashes, and bringing to the fore again the fundamental schisms of the last four years. After extended periods of political stalemate, Lebanon also faces a long list of overdue social and economic policy challenges.

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