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Lebanon Update-April 2018

Post Parliamentarian Elections: LF Isolation?

In the recent period, talks began in the political corridors about the post-elections political environment and the formation of the next Lebanese government. This discussion is linked to the relations between the various political forces. Over the past year, the Lebanese Forces (LF) representatives in the Parliament and in the Cabinet, have frequently found themselves alone in their political stances.[1] The two main themes that have put the LF at odds with the majority of the remaining political parties are mainly: re-establishing state sovereignty; and fighting corruption. The general disagreement within the cabinet was clear in the November cabinet crisis and translated into open talks about excluding the LF from the cabinet, or pushing the ministers out[2]. Furthermore, with the advancement of the preparations for the upcoming elections and the completion of the list formation and alliances, it is clear that Hariri’s Future movement and Bassil’s Free Patriotic Movement avoided allying with the LF in any district, in a clear effort to diminish the size of the post-election LF parliamentary bloc to a minimum.

As a result of this electoral isolation, the talks about giving the LF a very small share in the post-election cabinet or excluding it completely, have risen. Some news reports were discussing the isolation of the Lebanese Forces Party and its exclusion after the parliamentarian elections in the upcoming government[3].

The consequences, of the above, if it happens, will not be harmful for the LF. However, concerns should be raised about the general trend in which the country is heading, with the tendency to alienate and diminish any opposition voice that may insure proper checks and balances, and any significant accountability and public scrutiny, greatly needed in the upcoming junctures. Excluding the LF will leave the Lebanese political scene at this stage, without any significant counterbalance notably in the two strategic issues of sovereignty and corruption.

Military Court

The discussion on the role of the Military Count in Lebanon was renewed in the past weeks. Particularly following the prosecution of the Washington Institute Friedmann Visiting Fellow Hanine Ghaddar’s presentation at a 2014 Institute conference in which she discussed the Lebanese Army’s favorable treatment of the Hezbollah militia, which has been designated a terrorist group by the U.S. government. The Lebanese Military Tribunal reversed its January decision to sentence Ghaddar, to six months in prison in absentia for “defaming” the Lebanese military. Acting on an appeal from Ghaddar, the Tribunal dropped her sentence, ruling that it does not have jurisdiction to try a civilian journalist. The court referred the matter to the military prosecutor who could sent it to a civil court for further action[4].

The Military Court has been used in the past to trial civilians, notably in the crimes of “defamation” or “threatening national security” or even “damaging the relations with a friendly country” and these trials have been seen by many as a political tool of oppressing opponents[5]. Several Lebanese political parties and NGOs have been working with the support of international stakeholders to change the nature of the court. Recently a draft amendment of the relevant law presented by MP Elie Keyrouz has been passed to the relevant parliamentary committee, after three years of unexcused delay. At this critical time with the Lebanese Armed Forces gathering international support at the Rome conference, and its commitment to “clarity and transparency… [to] a transformative reform agenda… [and to] develop and implement codes of conduct as important steps towards increased respect for human rights and accountability”[6], Lebanon should not risk this support and should seize the momentum to push forward the well overdue reform of the Military Court jurisdiction and the Military Judiciary System in general.

Lebanese Parliamentary Elections

The political alliances of the different political parties in the upcoming parliamentary elections have been clarified in recent weeks and the list formation process have been completed. Moreover, the political discourse that each party will take in the wake of the electoral battle has become clearer. Few things can be noted regarding the political discourse:

  • Hezbollah and its allies are building their political rhetoric to prevent the so-called allies of the West and Saudi Arabia (the Lebanese Forces Party and the Future Movement) from gaining seats in North Bekaa (Baalback-Hermel), and South Lebanon. Their main aim is to win all the Shiite seats in all the districts.
  • The Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) is focusing on their previous achievements, especially after the election of General Aoun as President of Lebanon. However, there are obstacles, especially due to the corruption accusations they have received and their contradicting alliances, that range all the way from Hezbollah and Amal in the Baabda district, to the Syrian Nationalist Party in Metn, Communist Party in the South, Jammaa Islamiyah in Saida and even the “Ahbash” (Association of Islamic Charitable Projects), which is seen as a more fanatic Islamist group, in Beirut’s 2nd
  • The Future Movement is using harsh speeches against Hezbollah to target the Sunni voters all over Lebanon. The movement is benefiting from the disintegration of its Sunni opponents in order to get the biggest number of Sunni parliamentarian seats.
  • The Lebanese Forces Party is using the positive accomplishments of its ministers in government, in addition to their traditional sovereignty speech, regarding Hezbollah on one hand and their anti-corruption stand on the other, to increase the size of their parliamentarian bloc compared to the 2009 elections.
  • Druze leader Walid Jumblat is passing the baton to his son and hoping that with the set alliances with the Future movement and the Lebanese Forces, the Progressive Socialist Party will be able to preserve most of its current 11 seats, notably most of the Druze seats.
  • The Kataeb Party (The Lebanese Phalanges Party) who started the election season as a hardline opposition refusing to ally with any parties who participate in the government and any traditional “feudal” leaderships, hoping to ally only with the ‘civil society” and present alternative lists in all the country, have become much more pragmatic since. They are running in alliance with the Lebanese Forces in four districts and with some traditional leaderships in two, and with the civil society in the rest.

CEDRE Conference Outcome:

The CEDRE conference resulted in a big support by the international donors reaching an amount of $11 billion in low-interest loans and aid for Lebanon[7], with the development of a monitoring and accountability mechanism conditioning any funding to required reforms and supervising the spending. According to diplomatic sources, “Donors would like to see sectorial and structural reforms for the benefit of Lebanese households and businesses, which can unlock new flows of productive private sector investment to boost Lebanon’s economy.” “Reforms are needed to put the Lebanese economy on a new track: one that channels new flows of international capital to productive investments.”

The results are an excellent first step, but Lebanon will for its part sign up to a number of reforms including tougher measures to fight corruption.

The main concerns that could be raised are:

  • Large dependence on the ability of Lebanon to commit to and deliver the required political and reform related conditions, amidst fragile internal political consensus.
  • Weak focus on social needs including the health sector (Quality of Services & Equipment) and the education sector (Infrastructure & Technology), which are the two sectors that cannot be funded by private sector investments.
  • The plan is not incorporated into a general national economic strategy.
  • There is a need for developing a national managerial structure to administer the implementation, attached to the Council of Ministers not any specific political entity.
  • There is a need for developing a multi-stakeholder (public, private, civil society organizations, syndicates, etc.) Monitoring and Evaluation scheme to insure the transparency and public oversight of the different implementation steps.

 

[1]  Lebanon Files: “القوات” وحيدة داخل الحكومة! http://www.lebanonfiles.com/news/1250407

[2]  الأخبار، التعديل الحكومي على الطاولة: الحريري يريد إخراج القوات، https://al-akhbar.com/Politics/241406

[3] Naserdin, Ibrahim, Addiyar, April 3, 2018: An agreement between the “Future Movement” and the “Free Patriotic Movement” to trap/isolate the “Lebanese Forces Party”.

[4] Lebanese Military Court Reverses Conviction of Institute Friedmann Visiting Fellow Hanin Ghaddar, Washington Institute, retrieved from: http://info.washingtoninstitute.org/acton/rif/19961/s-05ca-1804/-/l-0097:134/l-0097/showPreparedMessage?sid=TV2:rynSgH8yA

[5] https://alefliban.org/publications/military-tribunal-a-breach-in-the-integrity-of-the-judicial-system/

[6] https://unscol.unmissions.org/sites/default/files/isg-joint_ministerial_statement-rome_15_03_18.pdf

[7] Naharnet Newsdesk (2018). Lebanon Donor Conference Raises Billions, Annahar, retrieved from: http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/244587