Lebanon News

Political standoff paralyzes Lebanon

Rival political leaders gather at the National Dialogue table at Baabda Palace, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

The government and the opposition are caught in standoff over how to calm the sectarian tension that is simmering on the streets of Lebanon. Baabda sources told The Daily Star that both the March 8 and March 14 coalitions are standing their ground on all pressing issues, including whether the government should resign.

The opposition is committed to its demand for the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s government and will not participate in National Dialogue until it is toppled. Meanwhile, the government refuses to resign, arguing that such a move would leave a dangerous political vacuum in the country.

As the international community voices concern over Lebanon’s stability following the assassination of senior security chief Wissam al-Hasan, ministerial sources said they were surprised by the course taken by the opposition in recent days.

The sources described the opposition’s response as “unwise” and “disorganized,” and said it has drained sympathy from their cause, drawing criticism instead.

Some ministerial sources said that March 14’s slogan of “a strong state” was betrayed Sunday when the coalition’s protesters tried to storm the Grand Serail.

The fact that the sit-in continues in Riad al-Solh means that March 14 leaders are still incapable of reining in their supporters. The action of these protesters has become more reckless than that of the March 8 protesters in 2007 because the participants in that sit-in did not try to attack the Grand Serail.

On the other side of the divide, opposition March 14 officials described the stances of the government and the prime minister as “meaningless,” accusing the Cabinet of trying only to implement a Syrian-Iranian project targeting Lebanon.

They also said that the assassination of Hasan was aimed at opening a way for the Syrian regime to freely enter into Lebanon to implement its agenda. Opposition officials warned that the tension in the country and the government’s refusal to resign are angering their supporters, who may no longer listen to March 14 leaders’ calls for restraint.

March 14 officials added that recent calls by the European Union and international community, as well as President Michel Sleiman and Progressive Socialist Party chief Walid Jumblatt, to preserve stability in the country will accomplish nothing until the resignation of the Cabinet, which will eventually succumb to the pressure from the street.

The officials said Sunday’s attempt to attack the Grand Serail was a spontaneous act by protesters whose anger was the result of years of inaction by March 14’s leadership in the face of assassinations.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 26, 2012, on page 3.




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