Lebanon News

Faith in Suleiman, but not in the political system

JNAH: As a first step toward implementing the Doha agreement and putting an end to Lebanon's long running political crisis, former armed forces commander Michel Suleiman has been elected president after nearly 6 months of void at Baabda Palace. Following Suleiman's inauguration speech, The Daily Star went to the Jnah neighborhood in southern Beirut for a local perspective. Most respondents expressed optimism about the election of Suleiman but feared that the return of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora as head of cabinet would complicate things.

As Ramzi, 38, explained "President Suleiman is a patriotic man. To avoid another political stalemate, the relationship between Prime Minister Siniora and President Suleiman should be based on good intentions."

Salim Bazzi, 40, would have preferred if parliamentary majority leader  Saad Hariri had been made prime minister.

"Suleiman is neutral and I expect him to maintain his impartiality," Bazzi added.

Diana Amhaz said she thought there was a good chance for recent developments to defuse tensions.

"I'm really happy the presidential election finally took place, and I'm very hopeful," she told The Daily Star.

Yet many others expressed pessimism. Despite the neutral status of the president, many expects that the stalemate will continue next year's parliamentary polls.

"A good inaugural speech by the president, but I don't believe he is capable of changing anything. Not before the 2009 parliamentary elections," said Hussein Sabtiya.

Joseph was especially worried by the return of Siniora to head a national unity government agreed at Doha.

"Following the election of the president, everything started to look better," he said. However, Premier Siniora's nomination had a very bad impact on the people. I believe President Suleiman will remain impartial. As former head of the Lebanese Army, his relationship with the opposition was good and I expect it to remain so."

A man who wished to remain anonymous elaborated on this subject, saying: "The president is a patriotic leader but is not strong enough to impose radical changes."

When asked to explain, he answered, "Former President Lahoud, a very powerful figure upon his rise to power, failed to run the state and implement many decisions. So will president Suleiman. I don't think the presidential election has put an end to the political crisis and God help President Suleiman."

Peaceful coexistence was of particular concern to many respondents and especially youngsters. They all stressed that Suleiman should seek to mediate consensus between the rival Lebanese factions and expected him not to come down on one side or the other of many controversial issues.

"The inaugural speech doesn't mean a thing if it is not followed up by actions," said Ghazi Jaafar, 25. "I trust the president with the implementation of these promises. This would lead to the peaceful coexistence between all Lebanese citizens and the improvement of the economic situation. If this is the case, I'm optimistic."

"The president should be firm and should try to reunite the Lebanese factions," said  Shadi, 25.





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