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    Security Takes Back Seat to Greed

    Over two months have passed since Najib Mikati was nominated to replace Saad Hariri as prime minister, and the bottomless greed for power among Lebanon’s political bosses that is prolonging the government agony has also left the country even more vulnerable than usual.

    Breathless reports constantly surface that a new cabinet is surely a day or a week away; these fables only obfuscate the reality that Mikati just has to slap together a cabinet from the March 8 bloc. Once it became clear that the rival March 14 camp would not participate, Mikati should have needed but a handful of days to sort out the distribution of posts among purported allies.

    Other fanciful tales of obstructions from this or that outside power also amount to blather; the only hurdle that the various March 8 parties seem unable to scale is their own uncontrollable lust for bigger and bigger morsels of the executive booty.

    Despite the massive hunger among Lebanon’s political class for government posts and the attendant largesse, a similar dynamic typically plays out in any country with a multi-party parliamentary system. But Lebanon in 2011 happens to find itself buffeted on all sides by regional turmoil of historic proportions, with revolutions overthrowing regimes, blood literally flowing in the streets, conflicts ready to ignite and threats from all sides fouling the air; Mikati and the political capos hashing out cabinet posts, meanwhile, are shambling along as if Lebanon rested in a galaxy far, far away.

    On the contrary, Lebanon is especially exposed to potential negative fallout from the Arab upheaval. The country’s economy could easily succumb to a disastrous plunge; in spite of the regular turbulence bedeviling the nation since 2005, Lebanon quite admirably managed to gain investor confidence; the longer Mikati leaves the country with a caretaker Cabinet, however, the greater the chances become that investors will flee and confidence will disappear – and it would take years to rebuild.

    Lebanon has also seen the first, tragic breaches of security. The bombing of a Zahle church and the unexplained disappearance of seven Estonians should have sent a signal to the dithering politicians that the country urgently needs a new, active and responsible cabinet.

    But perhaps the most odious aspect of the grubby government bargaining is that these so-called leaders are seeking to slake only the interests of their own rapacious partisan band; they are not engaging in battles over which policies to pursue or how best to serve Lebanon’s people. The squabbling politicians need to wake up to the dangers threatening Lebanon, abandon the self-interest blinding them to the regional unrest and form a government before catastrophe strikes – and any such calamity would make all the Lebanese suffer, regardless of their party’s share of the public pie.

    The Daily Star
    29.03.2011

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