Lebanon News

Government crisis prompts mixed public reaction

BEIRUT: Ordinary Lebanese were sharply divided over whom to blame for the collapse of Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Cabinet Wednesday after the withdrawal of ministers loyal to Hizbullah and its allies.

But irrespective of their political affiliations, the majority expressed concerns about violence breaking out when the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (S.T.L.), as is widely expected, issues an indictment against members of Hizbullah over the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Some even wished for a breakout of violence in a bid to settle the political dispute through force, in any direction.

In the neighborhoods of Tariq al-Jadideh, Burj Abi Haidar and Achrafieh, some fear the Cabinet void paves the way for instability that might escalate into Sunni-Shiite strife. Army patrols and checkpoints were seen throughout the capital Wednesday night in a pre-emptive move against potential incidents.

While Tariq al-Jadideh’s mostly Sunni residents blamed the failure to reach a compromise on Hizbullah and its regional backers, Shiites in Burj Abi Haidar accused Hariri of surrendering to the will of Washington in an attempt to corner the resistance by falsely implicating Hizbullah in the assassination of his father.

Youssef Rmeidi, a Burj Abi Haidar, resident said both camps were guilty in the failure of Syrian-Saudi talks and called on the resistance “to attempt a coup to counter groups seeking a victory that serves Israel.”

Rmeidi felt the renomination of Hariri as prime minister was unlikely, and predicted Hizbullah and its allies would declare civil disobedience.

Echoing Rmeidi, Ibrahim Jawad said he expected the situation to deteriorate as he accused the Hariri-led March 14 coalition of plotting “against the resistance and the country.”

Though he said a breakout of violence would serve the interests of the U.S., Jawad said he wished it would take place, “so that everyone becomes aware of his true [political weight],” in reference to Hizbullah’s military supremacy over the March 14 coalition.

On the other side of the political divide, Abed, a 40 year old from Tariq al-Jadideh, said Hizbullah and its allies sought to destroy Lebanon.

He added that while he did not expect Hariri to head the new Cabinet, the formation of one as matters stand today faces major difficulties, despite the realignment of Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt with the March 8 coalition. “Jumblatt is counted as a member of the opposition, and despite his compassion toward Hariri, he will comply with Hizbullah’s position when it comes to parliamentary consultations.”

President Michel Sleiman is expected to call for binding parliamentary consultations to nominate the new premier, with the possibility Hariri’s March 14 led coalition may lose the Parliamentary majority if all of Jumblatt’s Democratic bloc lawmakers realign with March 8.

Nevertheless, other supporters from both camps said the collapse of the Cabinet was simply a case of political theater, mapped out by foreign superpowers, although opinions differed on the motives behind such a plot.

Some said the Cabinet vacuum was planned by domestic parties with the approval of foreign powers as a compromise, to allow the Lebanese to avoid assuming the responsibility of cooperating with the S.T.L., which might involve arresting Hizbullah members named in the court’s indictment. “This is a game to say that no government is present to implement the indictment,” Ali, 30, from Burj Abi Haidar said.

Others said rival parties have agreed that Hariri step aside to avoid embarrassment; allowing another prime minister to assume the responsibility of halting cooperation with the tribunal.

In Achrafieh, a majority of mostly Christian residents held all parties responsible for the failure to break the deadlock, accusing both the March 14 and 8 camps of surrendering to the will of foreign parties.

Elie, 38, dismissed the likelihood of a new Cabinet being formed soon “without foreign intervention.” Asked whether he feared security instability, Elie said he had “no concerns,” even though he could not rule out such a scenario.

Michel, another Achrafieh resident, said the Cabinet “should have been brought down a long time ago after its failure to make any achievements.”





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