Lebanon: waiting for salvation

The Saudi king's two-day "reconciliation" visit to Syria has prompted speculation about what it will mean for Lebanon, where wrangling over the formation of a new government continues, four months after the parliamentary election.

Saudi Arabia backs Saad Hariri's March 14 alliance while Syria backs the opposition March 8 grouping. Following their talks in Damascus, King Abdullah and President Assad both called for a national unity government in Lebanon. 

The Lebanese Daily Star newspaper, though, is sceptical. In an editorial this morning it says:

Even if the Saudi-Syrian rapprochement does somehow speed the formation of a unity government in Lebanon, this country will still be handicapped by a haphazardly designed constitution that leads to countless dead ends, a parliamentary election law that fails to ensure democratic representation, a massive public debt that is exacerbated by corruption and a judiciary that is subject to the whims of those in power. 

What’s perhaps even worse is that the Lebanese will still be stuck with many of the same leaders who have spent years in power without moving to solve any of these problems ...

Lebanon’s own leaders are to blame for the fact that Beirut lacks a government several months after elections – and for the fact that they have made no serious attempt to repair the cracks in the country’s political system. 

But politicians in this country tend to shift the responsibility for their own failings by blaming “foreign interference”. They then wait for foreign powers to come and resolve whichever problems are said to have been created by external meddling. Rarely if ever do they assume responsibility for Lebanon’s ills and devise plans and strategies of their own for curing them. 

A sad testament to the status quo is the fact that so many editorialists and commentators in Lebanon have called for the swift formation of a unity cabinet, and have opined that the country would be better off with any new government, even one that isn’t really functional.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 9 October 2009.