Change has but one path

Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati addresses the 67th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, September 27, 2012. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The fate of Najib Mikati as the prime minister of Lebanon is sealed, in that he doesn’t have a future as the head of the current government formation. The prime minister himself hinted at this, based on reports that began to circulate shortly after Friday’s assassination of Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan.Thousands of people gathered Sunday in downtown Beirut for the funeral of Hasan, in line with the call by March 14 politicians. While it was supposed to be an event that honored the life of the late security official, some will remember instead that a number of people got out of hand, and violence was the result. This produced the opposite effect from what the organizers had in mind. Politicians from March 14 remember that the name of their movement springs from a date when a civilized, peaceful gathering helped change the course of Lebanon’s history.

Those who consider themselves partisans of March 14 should be aware that they represent a moment that was characterized by people demanding change, without resorting to violent tactics. They should also remember that the purpose of Sunday’s gathering was to pay tribute to Hasan’s life and service to his country.

What was supposed to be a funeral turned into a rock-throwing incident, and the protesters should have remembered that the people on the receiving end of those stones, the Internal Security Forces, were from the same organization with which Hasan was affiliated.

This kind of behavior is not the way to bring down the government of Najib Mikati; in fact, such acts prolong the life of the current Cabinet, despite the apparent readiness of its head to step down.

It was unfortunate to allow such an event, organized to express a spirit of resistance to the actions of the killers of Hasan and others, to be blemished by what happened. It was fortunate, and expected, that former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and other leading figures in the March 14 movement stepped in promptly and urged the protesters, who were understandably angry, to go home and channel their energy into more peaceful pursuits.

The days of the Mikati government are numbered, but events such as those Sunday work to move the premier back in the direction of staying on in his post.

March 14 politicians should not waver in their quest to push the Cabinet into caretaker status as soon as possible. But this change will only take place by using the tactic that was adopted in the most successful of Arab world uprisings, namely those mobilizing masses of peaceful protesters, and not by blocking streets with burning tires, or turning public squares into battlegrounds.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 22, 2012, on page 7.




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