After more than four months of waiting, the designate Prime Minister Najib Mikati has announced today his new government lineup in Lebanon. One thing strikes any observer straight away is to why this formation took so long. The majority of the newly appointed ministers are part of or affiliated with March 8 alliance. Many thought forming this new government should accordingly take only 24 hours (the previous government resignation was branded by March 14 as a Hezbollah coup d’etat)
The Druze MP Talal Arslan has resigned hours after the government announcement in protest of not getting a main portfolio; he believes that his demand will help to break the recent monopoly of the main ‘big’ sects in Lebanon for the main ministries. Other ‘prominent’ facts of the government are the zero share going for women, and unequal Shia/Sunni shares – which is not common.
Many people are calling this government as ‘one-sided’ and the Syrian regime’s, or Hezbollah’s for the obvious reasons; I have no doubt that this government is following the ’Syrian theme and sense’, but when I look deeper into the numbers, I can see an amplified view of the balance of powers in it.
Aoun is the biggest winner: March 8 (Hezbollah, General Michel Aoun, and other allies) has 18 ministers of 30, and rest is distributed between President Michel Suleiman, PM Najib Mikati, and the Druze MP Walid Jumblatt. This leaves March 8 with a clear majority stake in the government.
Now if I consider another direction of categorisation, and look at the ‘top performing’ single shares in the new government, I can count 10 ministers to General Aoun i.e. third of the Lebanese government. Moreover, Aoun agreed with Suleiman on the ‘joker’ minister, known as the ‘super-minister‘ (the Interior Minister Marwan Charbel); this leaves Aoun - technically speaking – with a veto power or even the power dissolve the government on his own, if he can pull this joker towards him (as March 8 just did with ex-PM Saad Hariri with the ‘joker’ minister between the President and Hezbollah)
Having a Sunni share bigger than the Shia’s, shows the sacrifices Hezbollah & Amal are willing to undertake, to face Hariri and hold onto Mikati, and hopefully increase his Sunni popularity. PM Najib Mikati has the second biggest share with six ministers (including himself). This leaves both Aoun and Mikati with a majority stake too, combined in the government.
There is no doubt that this government has been formed according to Hezbollah conditions, which everyone in it signed up to, but I can’t help to conclude that Aoun and Mikati earned a big price for this.
Hariri dynasty continues: as strange as it may sounds, but I can see the Hariri dynasty (father and son) continuing in the new Lebanese government. I mean by that the Hariri policies, its economical policies (liberalism, less regulation, privatisation) which was adopted by ex-PM Rafik Hairi since he came to power in 1992. Najib Mikati hold the same background as Hariri; he is a business tycoon that March 8 accepted to deal with. Hezbollah is clear on what it wants from Mikati (protection of its arms, and facing the Special Tribunal for Lebanon – STL); in return, it has to give Mikati something back – the economy.
Keeping this in mind, March 8 (mainly Aoun) has the hardest challenge since they were formed or came to the scene. Soon, they won’t be able to blame the previous Hariri policies, and as time progresses, their argument against the previous Hariri policies will weaken. they are in charge now, and responsible for steering the economy, cleaning up the state and politics from corruption. It goes without saying that the new lineup could ultimately end up in an explosive manner, especially that it took so long to announce a government we almost knew all its members-to-be.
Many March 14 politicians, and their followers have attacked Mikati on the new government. Contrarian to their views – and assuming Saad Hariri is forming this government in the same supporting numbers of MPs as Mikati - I don’t think Hariri would have got a better ‘deal’ for his political March 14 (just replace Mikati’s share with a one for Hariri). I think the best thing for March 14 now is to watch March 8 governing, and to work as an ‘effective’ opposition (this week’s Facebook blocking for MPs should help them to do so, although revolutions are being steered from FB!)
General Michel Aoun, proved again that if he sticks to his stance, he will get his ‘asking price’ even if that led to the world to stop spinning.