I was putting the finishing touches on a piece about the post-election situation when good old Walid “Weather Vane” Jumblatt gave me a nice quote to lead with. On Easter Sunday’s “Beirut-Shweifat-Dahiyeh-Mountains reconciliation” (where old alliances, like Christ, rose up after being left for dead), Jumblatt declared: “Elections are an important phase, but more important is the post-election phase.” The Weather Vane is right, as usual. Let’s read the tea leaves…
1) If March 14 wins and does not grant the opposition a blocking veto in the cabinet, we may be in for a replay of November 2006 – May 2008. A well-connected journalist in Beirut recently told me: “If March 14th wins and they don’t give Hizbullah a veto in the cabinet, there’s going to be trouble. I know this from talking to Hizbullah’s rank and file, on the streets. There’s just no way that they are going to accept having no veto. And March 14th knows that, so I think it’s a bit pointless of them to claim that they’re not going to give it to them, because who are they kidding? Hizbullah can take over the entire country and Hariri knows it.”
2) On the other hand, if M14 does give the opposition a blocking veto, one would assume a return to the jittery status quo, whereby big-ticket issues like Hizbullah’s weapons are off the table in exchange for record tourist seasons.
3) Similarly, this is probably what could be expected in the case of a March 8th majority with Hariri joining the cabinet, possibly even as Prime Minister (if we are to believe ex-Hizbullah MPs). This would be the clearest signal, to my mind, that the Saudis and Syrians have reestablished a condominium in Lebanon and have decided to play nice for Obama.
4) If M8 wins and Hariri boycotts the cabinet, this could only mean that the Saudi-Syrian reconciliation is not all that it’s been touted up to be, and that Lebanon is headed for instability, once again.
5) The final eventuality to consider is that neither side wins 65 seats, and that the various “independents” running on the lists of different coalitions would settle the question of who becomes Prime Minister.
So much for reading the dregs. Jumblatt probably had more on his mind than the question of veto politics when he hinted at the importance of the post-election phase. There has been a lot of talk about the possibility that the Druze chieftain (I love calling him that) would pull out of March 14th after the elections. Indeed, one wonders how soon the centripetal forces within both coalitions will begin showing signs of weakness. More on this, soon enough.