Lebanon - Politics - 2008 Doha
The Doha Agreement of May 2008 was an acknowledgement that no major decisions of the Lebanese Government can be effective without the consent of all major religious communities, regardless of how large the majority supporting the Government in the House of Deputies may be. This Agreement was not consistent with the provision of the written Constitution to which the Lebanese polity is supposed to refer in resolving their political differences.
The Doha Agreement paved the way for the election of a consensus candidate -- LAF Commander Michel Sleiman -- in May 2008, ending a seven-month vacuum in the presidency after the mandate of the former President, Emile Lahoud, expired on 23 November 2007. General Sleiman, a Maronite, was previously the commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces. He has been in the Army since 1976 and slowly climbed up the chain of command finally being appointed as commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces in 1998. A National Unity Government was agreed on 11 July headed by PM Fouad Siniora. This Government received a vote of confidence by the Lebanese Parliament on 12 August 2008. President Sleiman reconvened the National Dialogue on 16 September 2008.
Parliamentary elections were held on June 7, 2009, under the new electoral law mandated by the 2008 Doha Agreement. While the new electoral law maintained the Taif Agreement's division of parliamentary seats equally between Christians and Muslims, it also divided Lebanon into 26 electoral districts and mandated that elections be held on a single day, rather than consecutive weekends. Observers concluded the elections were generally free and fair, with minor irregularities. In its final report, a EU observer team stated there were no major irregularities; that the elections benefited from legal improvements introduced in September 2008, such as an independent election commission, abolition of the voter card and multiday elections, and regulation of campaign finance and media; and voter turnout was higher than in previous elections, at almost 52 percent compared to 43 to 45 percent in 2005. The September 2008 electoral law also established out-of-country voting provisions for the 2013 parliamentary elections.
In its annual National Integrity System Study, the Lebanese Transparency Association (LTA) reported during the 2009 parliamentary elections LTA monitors witnessed vote buying through cash donations on election day in many electoral districts. LTA issued a press statement the day after the elections stating acts of vote-buying occurred in Metn, Zahle, Batroun, Zghorta, West Bekaa, and Saida. The report indicated the value of a vote reached from 90,000 pounds ($60) to 150,000 pounds ($100) in Saida, 1,300,000 pounds ($800) in Zahle, and up to 4,500,000 pounds ($3,000) in Zgharta. On June 9, OTV broadcast a recording of a conversation between MP Michel Murr and Father Elias Akkary in which Murr asked Akkary to retrieve the preprinted ballots he had distributed on behalf of Murr's opponent or else face the secret services. Akkary had reportedly agreed to campaign for Murr but instead campaigned for Murr's opponent, MP Ibrahim Kenaan.
Sa'ad Hariri's coalition secured a parliamentary majority in the 2009 elections. The new national unity cabinet headed by Prime Minster Hariri received parliament's vote of confidence on December 10, 2009, after six months of extensive negotiations between the majority and the opposition. As in 2005 and 2008, the new cabinet's ministerial statement focused on political and economic reform, but also endorsed Hizballah's role, along with that of the Lebanese people and army, in confronting Israeli occupation of Lebanese territory. A number of recent security incidents in south Lebanon highlight the continuing threat to Lebanon's stability and security posed by Hizballah's arms and the need for full implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1559, 1680, and 1701, including the disarmament of all militias, the delineation of the Lebanon-Syria border, and enforcement of the weapons-free zone.
By January 2011 Lebanon's two major political coalitions, March 8 and March 14, were deadlocked over the issue of The Special Tribunal for Lebanon. March 14, which was the ruling party of Sa'ad Hariri, supported the court. March 8, the opposition coalition that includes Hezbollah, did not. Hezbollah, a Shi'ite political party and militia backed by Iran and Syria, says the court's goal is to discredit the organization, not to find the killers. Both sides say they will only accept a new government that agrees with them on this issue. March 14 says Sa'ad Hariri is the only man for prime minister. March 8 says he is not.
Sa'ad Hariri's Western-backed government fell Wednesday 12 January 2011 when 11 ministers, most from Hezbollah, resigned. outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri said he would not participate in any new government led by a Hezbollah-backed candidate. The Iranian-backed Hezbollah secured enough votes to nominate its candidate for prime minister, giving the opposition control of the next Lebanese government. Walid Jumblatt, leader of Lebanon's 200,000 Druze, once strongly supported the Tribunal, but in early 2011 swung his support behind Syria and Hezbollah. General Michel Aoun, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, a Maronite Christian, was now also allied with Hezbollah. He was prime minister and president during the civil war. Jumblatt's seven votes added to the opposition's 57 seats in parliament, plus Mikati's vote, gives them the 65 deputies needed to tip the nomination to their candidate, a billionaire businessman who represents the northern city of Tripoli.
Lebanon's president appointed Hezbollah-backed candidate Najib Mikati prime minister-designate on Tuesday 25 January 2011, as protests raged in several cities. Mikati told reporters he told the president that in this time of political crisis there must be an effort to save the country and he called for unity. Mikati said he will seek diverse political interests as he helps direct the formation of the government. He urged all of the country's political parties to take part in the new government, saying his appointment did not signal a victory of one camp over another. Mikati championed a policy of "dissociation'' from the crisis in Syria but struggled to insulate his country from the turmoil. Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its allies in his cabinet are strong supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while most Sunni Muslims support rebels battling to topple Assad.
Thousands of angry supporters of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri took to the streets 25 January 2011 in several cities, where they shouted their loyalty to the former leader. Some protesters said they would not allow Lebanon to go down "an Iranian path," a reference to Tehran's support for Hezbollah. Earlier Tuesday, demonstrators who gathered in support of Mr. Hariri attacked a truck belonging to the Al Jazeera news channel and set it on fire. Protesters also burned pictures of Mr. Mikati. Elsewhere, protesters burned tires and waved flags. Tensions are high in Lebanon because of a U.N.-backed investigation into the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, the father of the outgoing prime minister. Media reports have indicated the tribunal would indict Hezbollah members, but the group denies having had a role in the attack.
Lebanon faced a parliamentary election in June 2013 but was plunged into uncertainty by the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Mikati, after a dispute over the electoral law and an extension to the term of a top security official. The prime minister of Lebanon resigned March 23, 2013 following a deadlock in his Cabinet about preparations for a parliamentary election and a dispute over extending the term of a senior security official. Najib Mikati, the Sunni prime minister and billionaire, resigned after his Cabinet failed to approve the formation of a supervisory electoral body and opposed extending the tenure of Internal Security Forces chief Ashraf Rifi. Rifi is a fellow Sunni Muslim who is seen as a critical figure for the Western-backed March 14 coalition. Mikati's own Sunni community for feeling that he has betrayed them when he accepted the premiership and shifted rank in alliance with Hezbollah and then kind of covering up politically for Hezbollah’s various activities in Lebanon and in Syria. Hezbollah also was dissatisfied with Prime Minister Mikati because the group wanted to replace the security chief, Rifi, whose term was set to expire.
Lebanese politician Tammam Salam, a former minister from a prominent Sunni Muslim political dynasty, emerged as a potential new prime minister on 04 April 2013 when he was endorsed by the country's pro-Western March 14 Coalition. Mikati, who had called for a “national salvation” government to ensure stability in a country shaken by the conflict in neighboring Syria, said he would not put his name forward again because he could not win consensus backing. Salam - a Sunni Muslim as all prime ministers must be under Lebanon's confessional distribution of power - is the son of a former prime minister. His grandfather served under the Ottoman Empire and the French colonial mandate.
He won endorsement from March 14, which had 60 seats in the 128-seat parliament, at a meeting of the political alliance in central Beirut after a lightning trip to Saudi Arabia for talks with March 14's leader, former prime minister Saad al-Hariri. March 14 groups mainly Sunni and Christian parties which pushed, with U.S. and European support, for Syria to end nearly three decades of military presence in Lebanon in 2005. Salam was also expected to win the support of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, whose seven seats hold the balance of power.
The other main political bloc is the March 8 coalition which dominated Mikati's government and is made up of Shi'ite parties Hezbollah and Amal and their mainly Christian allies, including the Free Patriotic Movement of Michel Aoun. Prime Minister Najib Mikati's two years in office were dominated by efforts to contain sectarian tensions, violence and economic fallout from the Syrian conflict.
Salam would head a neutral government tasked with preparing for the election and would not be expected to stand as candidate himself. The vote, set for early June, was likely to be delayed after disputes over whether it should be a winner-takes-all election or follow proportional representation - or be a hybrid of both.
Lebanon's parliament voted May 31, 2013 to postpone elections scheduled for June 16 because of security concerns about the unstable security situation in the country brought on by the conflict in neighboring Syria. The decision by Lebanese lawmakers to postpone elections and extend their mandate until November 2014 was the first time they had done so since the Lebanese civil war ended in 1990.
Lebanon's Prime Minister Tammam Salam formed a national unity government 15 February 2014, more than 10 months after he became prime minister. The 24-member government united the powerful Shia political party Hezbollah and its allies with the Sunni-led bloc of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri for the first time in three years. Salam was unable to form a cabinet because of deep divisions among Lebanese political groups, mostly over the civil war in neighboring Syria.
Agreement was reached after the March 14th coalition agreed to withdraw its choice for interior minister after strong opposition from Hezbollah. Incoming Prime Minister Tamam Salam, who is himself the son of a beloved, long-time prime minister, noted in his inaugural message that he had attempted to put together a balanced government in which all parties participated, but without any religious or sectarian quotas.
The office of president is reserved for a Christian candidate. Two aging warlords, General Michel Aoun and Dr Samir Geagea - both Christians with controversial backgrounds from Lebanon's civil war (1975 to 1990) - locked horns in May of 2014 in a political battle which saw the parliament convene 35 times without electing either candidate as president.
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