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A Continued Political Stalemate

Author: Mohamad Bazzi, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
November 8, 2009
Washington Times

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Five months after holding parliamentary elections, Lebanon is still without a government. The pro-Western coalition that won the vote is floundering in the morass of Lebanon's sectarian politics, and the country is once again drifting toward crisis.

What is wrong with Lebanon, and why is it so hard to form a government?

After the June 7 elections, a simplistic narrative emerged in the West: Because Hezbollah and its allies were defeated at the polls, the Shi'ite militant group would lose some of its luster and a pro-U.S. political coalition would rule Lebanon.

But in fact, Hezbollah remains the country's dominant military and political force. Hezbollah holds the key to both domestic and external stability: Its actions will determine whether there is another war with Israel or whether Lebanon will once again be wracked by internal conflict. The current political vacuum gives Hezbollah free rein to continue its military buildup in southern Lebanon.

Saad Hariri, the Sunni leader and U.S.-backed prime-minister-designate, has been unable to form a Cabinet - with the defection of Druze chieftain Walid Jumblatt to the Hezbollah camp just the latest of Mr. Hariri's problems. But this political maneuvering is only a symptom of a much deeper problem: an antiquated power-sharing system adopted six decades ago.

 

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