BEIRUT: Since its formation in June last year, Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s government has been jolted by many major problems that could have toppled any other Cabinet.
The most serious problems the government had to face were the escalating tension on the Lebanese-Syrian border, demands by labor unions and teachers, the case of 11 Lebanese pilgrims kidnapped in Syria and the split over Hezbollah’s arms.
But while the decision to keep this government is still valid, the crises that faced Mikati seemed to be chipping away at his political base.
Mikati was greatly embarrassed when General Security arrested on May 12 Shadi Mawlawi, an Islamist supporter of the Syrian opposition, from the office of Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi in Tripoli without the prime minister’s knowledge.
After Mawlawi was released on bail, Mikati had to receive him at his residence in Tripoli.
This week’s deportation by General Security of 14 Syrians to Damascus which sparked a wide row – including condemnation by March 14 parties, the U.S. Embassy and the European Commission, and MP Walid Jumblatt’s demand for the dismissal of the chief of General Security Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim – also embarrassed Mikati because it was done without his knowledge.
People who sympathize with Mikati say if they took for granted General Security’s account that the 14 Syrians were not activists, but Syrian nationals who were sentenced by a Lebanese court and deported according to the law, it would have been better if the prime minister had been informed beforehand of the deportation decision.
Mikati also had to deal with the sectarian tension triggered by the killing of a prominent anti-Assad Muslim preacher and his companion at an army checkpoint in May in the northern province of Akkar.
Mikati had to reconcile between local residents’ angry reactions to this dangerous incident and his concern for preserving faith in the Lebanese Army and extinguishing doubts about its mission.
Then came President Michel Sleiman’s request last month that Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour deliver a letter of protest to the Syrian government over the Syrian army’s violations of Lebanese territory without consultation with Mikati on this step.
Although Sleiman’s move embarrassed him, Mikati did not cause a problem and overcame it by his middle-of-the road approach, which avoids a confrontation.
The decision to provide security bodies with telecommunications data was also taken without the knowledge of Mikati who tried to find out its details from people concerned with this issue.
Mikati met at the Grand Serail with these people who explained to him all information related to this matter. Based on the opinion of the judicial committee and security bodies, it was agreed not to deliver telecoms data to security forces.
But Sleiman, in a move apparently seeking to appease the March 14 opposition and end their boycott of National Dialogue sessions, called for a meeting with the relevant ministers as well as Mikati at Baabda Palace.
The meeting resulted in the judicial committee changing its stance on the release of telecoms data.
During the meeting at Baabda Palace, officials reached an agreement to release complete telecoms data to security forces, as demanded by the opposition.
After the meeting, Mikati appeared as if he had reluctantly approved of the agreement.
On the other front, none of the major political parties praised Mikati’s brave decisions, the most significant of which was the decision to save Lebanon from a confrontation with the international community over the funding of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and renewal of its protocol.
Sources observing Mikati’s approach in governance say that the “centrism” he is following, which rejects the tactics of a confrontation, forced him to bear too much.
His resignation would certainly present a worrying situation. But sources do not rule out the possibility of Mikati quitting his post if any political party or government official brought up a new issue without his knowledge.