And he finally did it. PM Najib Mikati resigned on Friday after lots of previous calls for resignations, explicitly by March 14 and implicitly – in form of threats – by Hezbollah’s camp. But Mikati did not do it to please those guys, it was simply the best action for him.
After nearly 29 years on the implementation of the federation of sects which started in 2013 with the Orthodox Gathering electoral Law, strong voices are reappearing again calling for the “correction of the injustice” that some minorities within the same big sects still face.
These minorities include the Maronites living outside Mount Lebanon, Shiites living outside the South and Bekaa, and Sunnis outside Beirut and the North. Their concerns revolve around their feeling of being third grade citizens within their big sects. These feelings led to the formation of extremist organisations like MMMM (Maronites Mad Max Man), MWSJ (the Military Wing of the Shiite of Jbeil) and DMB (Druze Militia of Beirut). Also, Sunnis show relatively more severe disintegration than other sects with another dimension of the clash being between the four main religious doctrines: Maliki, Shafi’i, Hanafi, and Hanbali.
In an unsigned article, Al-Akhbar reported yesterday that Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah told his cadres in a private gathering that the Party of God “has changed” and that its ultimate priority is to “protect Lebanon”, which is different to the 1980s priority of establishing an Islamic state. He also emphasised that they “must work to apply it”.
We can interpret these words in many ways, but let’s rewind to a previous 2004 statement by Mohammad Raad made to the writer Nicholas Blanford who recorded it in his book Killing Mr Lebanon. Although some anti-imperialist writers unjustifyingly discredit Blanford for being politically biased to Hariri, the book did show how Rafiq Hariri used his money to achieve political objectives i.e. what we call corruption. So page 190 says:
Raad hinted that the party could one day trade the Islamic Resistance for greater political influence, in which Hezbollah would capitalise in the numerical superiority of the Shiites.
When Raad was asked if the presidency should still then be reserved for the Maronites, he replied with a sly smile. Quite funny when the Maronites are on a totally different wavelength these days, with their main leaders asking to “correct the injustice” against their sect/Christians in the electoral law.
Are we near the time when Hezbollah trades his weapons with agreed privileges in a new state? Knowing they previously received generous financial offers but they declined them?
Should the Maronites stop asking for more like the current Orthodox Law proposal and come to terms with the hard reality that other powerful sects presumably look with envy to the top state position, top army position and biggest share of MPs in the parliament?
I think it’s a matter of time for these “corrections” to be raised, although now could seem a suitable time for Hezbollah to start the process with the electoral law currently being cooked.
So what is an acceptable salary for a government or government-affialted employee in a country where the minimum wage is less $600 per month? I suppose the answer is not an easy, especially if the job differs massively from a role to another.
This issue was strongly brought up last week in the media with the big salaries allowed to the members of the newly formed petroleum committee in Lebanon. Minister Gibran Bassil wanted to pay them $25,000/m as a total package, but the cabinet reduced that to nearly $17,000 with a 17% allowance on top for not taking any employment at the end of contract (paid in two instalments at the mid and end of the employment). The approved compensation includes a $2,000 housing allowance.
Continue reading »
At last, some movement is being recorded on the front of the exploration of oil and gas in Lebanon according to Assafir, who said that in the cabinet will approve the tendering timeline in its next meeting on Thursday.
Better late than never; we will keep a close eye on the progress, the but timeline is looking like this:
1- January 2013: start of the pre-qualification period for the interested companies
2- May 2013: start of the tendering period for the shortlisted qualified companies
3- December 2013: deadline for submittal of tenders
4- February 2014: announcement of winning tender after evaluation
5- May 2014: sign the contract after a period of negotiations
6- Some time in 2015: start of exploration works
You probably heard couple of weeks ago how our Telecommunications Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui brought the future to our students (according to him), by planning to provide them with computer tablets. A deal, done with Intel Corporation Vice President for Sales and Marketing Group, comprised supplying the Intel product which could be powered by an operating system called MANDRIVA (you probably haven’t heard of it).
The Lebanese people won’t accept, after today, the continuation of the government of assassination
In a half-civilised country, if a cat was killed in the same way as Wissam Al-Hassan was killed, a government or at least a minister would resign. So no question what should happen when a security chief gets bombed.
But let’s be honest here, Lebanon is an abnormal farm that makes such a move a high-risk venture with unknown consequences. At its best, we could be looking at political vacuum. At its worst, we are taking about sectarian civil war here. And this message was clearly passed on by the US and EU that they don’t mind this Hezbollah-controlled government to keep going.
I deeply thank Habib Battah for his blog post on The Beirut Report for highlighting an example of the bad conditions under which construction workers (foreign most of the time) live in Lebanon. Construction in general is a subject close to my heart, and “health and safety” is a main aspect of delivering construction projects, considering this industry is statistically one of the most dangerous in terms of accidents and casualties numbers (relative to other office and non-office jobs).
Today is the 39th anniversary of the ‘Tishreen liberation war’ or the 1973 October war between Syria and Egypt on one side, and Israel on the other. Syrian state today is celebrating the victory of this liberation war.
A new addition is expected to the Lebanese political scene, which would seriously contribute to its contrasting colourfulness. Apparently, Lebanese Salafists are looking to establish a political party to participate in the 2013 electoral elections and the beyond scene.
This could a bit advanced for them considering they don’t usually recognise post-Caliphates states, so some internal rifts within their movement is possible.
A few conversations took place yesterday between the Lebanese President Michel Sleiman and Iran’s ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar (Ghadanfar) Roknabadi. It started with a phone call…
(ring ring ring, ring ring ring, ring ring ring…)
Michel: oh thanks for picking up, at last.
The crazy kidnapping spree that took place this week and still ongoing is scary on all levels. It’s what a country like Lebanon needs to take back its glories. And I tell you that I never felt like that in recent history. It’s easy to blame the government, which I did, but let’s be realistic here. Two parties are responsible, Hezbollah which legislated this state of lawlessness, and Free Syrian Army which has given Al-Mokdad family the unnecessary spark.
As the Syrian revolution turned violent, comparisons of the situation there have been made to every possible recent regional conflict. The Syrian conflict has gained some sectarian momentum which guaranteed its resemblance – according to many analysts (to different degrees) – to the Iraqi, Lebanese or former Yugoslavian conflicts.
Now, for us the Lebanese, we can very much relate to the sequence of events in Syria. It’s déjà vu for us. We can tell what comes after bombings for example; kidnappings, revenge killings, sectarian mobilisation, rise of local warlords are always on the menu. Continue reading »
The Lebanese government has passed a new draft law electoral law based on Proportional Representation (PR) yesterday, in which it divides Lebanon into 13 districts. The new draft law will have to be debated and passed by the parliament, which could make it also a totally different animal by then.
In a previous post, I concluded that Hezbollah and its M8 alliance will be the main winners from PR if Lebanon was adopted as one district. Now, the cabinet is proposing 13 districts, which could mitigate Hezbollah’s influence, but overall, they are still winning from such a proposal. Which is why Hariri and March 14 are quite vocal against PR, although I am not sure what they really want instead of it!
Ok, so the airport road was closed again yesterday in Beirut, and reopened this morning. If there are signs of impotency of the Lebanese government, surely its helpless watching of this chaos is one of them (too many signs to list here). If the government can’t impose the rule of law and ensure the safety of its citizens, may be at least it needs to regulate that chaos.
That was me, but more than one year ago:
Soon, they (the government) 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.
I must admit, I didn’t expect the government to be that bad, and the country to be falling apart as it is now. The government was supposed to contain political parties that defend the ‘vulnerables’, ‘deprived’, ‘socialism’ as featured by their names, or just do ‘Reform and Change’!
The state of denial of the Syrian regime’s orchestra has reached unprecedented levels. Denial of everything was what characterized the regime’s response to the uprising from its start in March 2011. The regime denied ‘anything’ happening at first, then denied the peacefulness of the protests, then theydenied the of existence of army defectors (but not so of armed gangs).
They even denied the fall of Tripoli and Qaddafi in summer 2011 saying everything was pre-recorded in Qatari studios and Aljazeera fooled us by airing the film which led later to the actual fall of Qaddafi.
As I write this post, Lebanese leaders start their discussions at Baabda Palace in the second session of this round of Lebanese National Dialogue. This round started earlier this month with more than a year of stoppage. Subject of today? Hezbollah’s arms!
Looking at the format of the meeting and the faces of the 17 participants or whatever the number is, I laugh out loudly (that’s LOL!). So Agob Pakradounian, Jean Ogasapian, Farid Makari and others are going to be the people to convince Hezbollah to give up his arms?
Al-Akhbar has close links with Hezbollah, with Al-Amine considered the unofficial spokesman of the Party of God. I am not talking about the portrait of Imad Mughniyeh behind his desk, but rather his editorials.
He is a staunch supporter of Bashar Assad’s regime, but he goes out of his way sometimes, mostly in the wrong way, but I can’t fault him this time. This is what he gave us this time:
The Arab Spring has been described and associated with such a wide variety of symbolic designations that at times, the term chosen to describe the series of protests that have swept across the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region may indicate a person’s political position on the wide and highly polarized spectrum. The term ‘Arab Spring’ has even been criticized by some who support the pro-democracy (or anti-regime) protests, citing this description as being Orientalist and therefore inappropriate.
There is a lot of talk now in Lebanon about the Proportional Representation (PR) elections system, and whether to adopt an election system based on it in the next general elections 2013.
The idea is being faced with mixed stances from the different parties, with a main opposition from Walid Jumblatt. One thing is sure about Proportional Representational system that it is a fairer system that represents parties according to their “proportion” and gives access to parliament to the smaller parties and independents.
I wanted to see how the parliament would look like in 2013 if a PR system was adopted, so I have done a small study based on the 2009 elections results.
“I come before you today to urge you to be true to America’s nature, to aid those aspiring to freedom, to strike a blow to terrorism [...] the genuine nature of the Lebanese people is reflected in their love for freedom and their affection towards America; and the genuine nature of America is reflected in its support of those who seek freedom [...] We have never lost faith – and we never will – that our natural allies in the free world will finally see (the Lebanese struggle with Syria) for what it truly is: a fight for freedom against terrorism and oppression.” General Michel Aoun – September 2003 – In the United States Congress for the Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act. Continue reading »