The surprise resignation of Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s Cabinet is an opportunity for Lebanon to turn the page on a controversial chapter of the post-2005 era, when a “one-color government” was mired in dysfunction and paralysis.
But the move can also lead to a new political dynamism, provided that all factions move promptly to prevent further drift. The Cabinet’s resignation was a key condition of the March 14 opposition to move the country forward, and in his statement, Mikati urged politicians to resume the critically important process of National Dialogue, sponsored by President Michel Sleiman.
The resignation might generate the kind of positive shock that is needed to spur agreement on another key item, namely a parliamentary election law that is based on consensus. Moreover, a change in government might also allay the concerns of key western countries about the presence of Hezbollah in the Cabinet, as Gulf countries have also been alarmed about the state of affairs under a March 8-dominated executive branch.
While it remains early to discuss the composition of the next government, a Cabinet of technocrats or other neutral figures, tasked with overseeing the parliamentary election round, could also smooth the path that lies ahead.
The simple fact is that Lebanon requires political stability and the related economic benefits that flow from it, especially at a time in which the Arab world is beset by turbulence on various fronts.
It is essential from all sides to agree on the successor to Mikati and the makeup of the next Cabinet, so that it is formed quickly and smoothly, and so that it faces no looming political land mines in the coming critical months.
The dangers that Lebanon faces are in plain view of everyone. Security conditions top the list of priorities, amid recent bouts of tension and violence in Tripoli, Beirut and elsewhere.
There is simply no room for long, drawn-out negotiations over the next Cabinet, in which each side worries about its share of the pie. There are urgent priorities to address: security, the elections, and the economy, and these must be at the forefront of politicians’ concerns.
As Lebanon’s Cabinet now moves into caretaker status, the various political sides should not spend an excessive amount of time mourning or celebrating the Mikati resignation, but instead do their utmost to demonstrate that there is light at the end of the political impasse tunnel.