BEIRUT: Most Lebanese see the election of Michel Sleiman as president and the nomination of Fouad Siniora as premier as just the beginning of a journey paved with numerous political obstacles. The recent agreement in Doha, Qatar, regarding the next cabinet and the distribution of major service and sovereign ministries has been controversial and of great importance ahead of the upcoming 2009 elections. The Daily Star went to the mostly Christian Beirut neighborhood of Achrafieh to gain a local perspective and gather thoughts on the upcoming challenges.
Many respondents believed that Siniora's nomination to head the next cabinet was confrontational and held him responsible for the deterioration of the economic situation, but they still hope for a transparent and fresh government.
"Sleiman is an impartial man, and so should the prime minister be," said Sami Shahin, 21. "Siniora was responsible for the emigration of young qualified Lebanese people. We need honest new figures to take charge of sovereign ministries."
"A fair representation of the different Lebanese factions in the new government is a must, otherwise peaceful coexistence could be disrupted," said Boudi al-Metni, 28.
A man who identified himself only as Riad told The Daily Star that any agreement on the formation of a cabinet would hinge on the consent of regional powers. "Lebanese political leaders are incapable of governing their own state; it has been always this way," he said.
A few others would have preferred that Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun were elected president, but believe that Sleiman is an honest man. They urged him to investigate corruption in the Finance Ministry.
"The Finance Ministry should be handed over to the opposition coalition," said Adel, another respondent.
But others disagreed, stressing that Sleiman was the right choice, as was Siniora, who they think is a man of experience who can manage to find solutions to any controversial issue.
"Sleiman preserved the unity of the Lebanese Army, and Siniora is a hardworking person trusted with the welfare of this country," said Raja Chahine, 21.
Ibrahim, 23, said that Sleiman was impartial but former MP Fares Souaid would have been a better choice, adding: "I blame Aoun for the delay in the formation of a cabinet."
Very few respondents expressed total pessimism or even considered emigrating.
One person who wished to remain anonymous told The Daily Star that "all Lebanese political leaders take the interests of the Lebanese people very lightly. I don't believe there is going to be any real change for the better. I just hope we don't end up fighting."