There has been some movement in recent days on the cabinet formation stalemate. Saad Hariri agreed to join a national unity government with Hizbullah, a welcome development after months of deadlock.
How many months precisely? Nearly ten. Tammam Salam was appointed PM-designate on April 6, 2013. As you will recall, Lebanon’s previous premier Najib Mikati spent five months forming his government in 2011 (which was about how long Saad Hariri took to put together a cabinet after the 2009 parliamentary elections.)
In view of these historical trends, I thought I’d tally up the total amount of time that Lebanon has spent since the 2009 election under a caretaker government. All told, in the 1702 days since June 7 2009, Lebanon has spent 625 days (or 37%) under a caretaker government.
Here’s the breakdown:
- Saad Hariri: Took office on November 9, 2009 after 155 days (since the June 7, 2009 election).
- Najib Mikati: Took office on June 15, 2011 after 153 days (since the collapse of the Hariri cabinet on January 12, 2011)
- Tammam Salam: Has been trying unsuccessfully to form a government for ten months (actually 317 days since Mikati’s resignation on March 23, 2013)
(Note that I have calculated the figures above from the end of one cabinet to the formation of a new one, which includes both the amount of time that a PM-designate spends putting together his cabinet as well as the previous period of appointing a PM-designate.)
In other words, Salam’s difficulties have precedents rooted in well-documented structural flaws of the Lebanese system, which has proven to be unworkable in the years since the departure of the Syrian army. For some context on this particular problem (cabinet formation), here are some links to my commentary from years past.
Hariri cabinet formation process (June-November 2009)
- The Looming Kerfuffle
- Coalition of the Unwilling
- Saad Hariri Takes the Helm
- Is that a Silver Bullet in Your Pocket?
- Hariri For Government Formation Without Hastiness
- Calling all FPMers
- The Constitutional Backdrop to Lebanon’s Cabinet Deadlock (Sept. 15, 2009)
- Aoun Drops Demands; Opposition Adds New Member (Qnion)
- All for None (The National)
Mikati cabinet formation process (Jan-June 2011)
- No Victors in Lebanon (Foreign Policy)
- Who Will Be Lebanon’s Next Prime Minister? Doing the Parliamentary Math
- Day of Hypocrisy
- Should Hariri Join Mikati’s Government?
- Lebanese Cabinet Stalemate: 2011 Edition
- Lebanon’s New Government
- Mikati’s Cabinet and the 2013 Elections
Salam cabinet formation process (March 2013 – today)
- Mikati’s Resignation Signals the Collapse of the Lebanese Idea, Renewed Civil War, and the End of the World as We Know It
Update: If we push the start date of this experiment back to the day the Karami government fell following the Hariri assassination in February 2005, we end up with a similar quotient of around 37% of the last nine years without a functioning government, because we’d have to include the twenty months of no government during the Hizbullah sit-in from November 2006 until May 2008.