Bazzi: Lebanon's Presidential Politics-No Violence, More Haggling
Council on Foreign Relations
Interviewee: Mohamad Bazzi, Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow
Interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor
November 27, 2007
Mohamad Bazzi, former Middle East bureau chief for Newsday, says there will be likely be more haggling ahead of a new deadline for Lebanon’s political parties to agree on a compromise candidate to become the country’s next president. He also says Syria can play a tempering role if it feels the road is opened at the Middle East conference in Annapolis for talks on ending Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights.
The term of office of Lebanon’s president, Emile Lahoud, ended on Friday. He stepped down and theoretically another Christian Maronite was supposed to be elected by the parliament to replace him, but a consensus candidate could not be agreed upon. So we’re in a state of limbo now. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has set this coming Friday as the date for parliament to choose the next president. Do you think it’s likely the political parties will come up with a candidate by then?
Judging by what’s happened in the past week, it’s unlikely that they’re going to find a consensus candidate by Friday. There seems to be this unwritten agreement now between the two sides—between the governing coalition and the opposition led by Hezbollah—to keep the rhetoric down while they negotiate a little more. There’s really not any real deadline on paper for them anymore. Everyone expected some kind of cataclysmic event by Friday, when the president’s term ended, but in very Lebanese fashion it turned out to be completely the opposite. Each side held back, the ruling coalition known as the March 14th coalition did not go into parliament and elect its own candidates with a simple majority and, in exchange, the opposition didn’t take to the streets and didn’t try to impose a rival government.
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