I have a short piece over at ForeignPolicy.com‘s “The Argument” blog about the cabinet formation. Here are the first couple of paragraphs, with a link to the rest. Come on back and comment, if you’re so inclined.
Coalition of the Unwilling
By Elias Muhanna
When the March 14 coalition won a parliamentary majority in Lebanon’s national election two weeks ago, there was much crowing and backslapping heard the world over. The United States, Europe, and the Sunni Arab regimes hailed the result as a victory for Lebanon’s “moderates” and a defeat for the allies of Syria and Iran — foremost among them Hezbollah. After a campaign season full of bleak predictions about March 14’s electoral prospects and indeed its political future, the result gave the coalition a much-needed shot in the arm and put to rest, if only temporarily, any doubts about its governing mandate.
Now comes the hard part. Consultations to choose a prime minister and form a cabinet have run aground on a shoal of familiar disputes. Although Saad Hariri (son of slain former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri) has widespread support to become the next premier, the parceling out of ministerial portfolios is a much trickier task, due largely to the opposition’s demand for a veto-wielding share of the cabinet. Without a “one-third-plus-one” proportion of cabinet seats, Hezbollah and its allies have said that they might simply boycott the government altogether, leaving March 14 to govern alone.
In a country other than Lebanon, such a state of affairs wouldn’t necessarily be cause for concern in the eyes of the ruling coalition. However, the nature of the Lebanese political system mandates that all of the country’s sectarian communities be represented within government, and so the absence of parties like Hezbollah and Amal — who command overwhelming support among Lebanese Shiites — would seem to be a contravention of the spirit of consociationalism embodied by the Lebanese Constitution.