The Struggle Over the Sunni Premiership

Take a politician. Pump him with cash. Give him an Arab and International coverage. Assure him a sectarian umbrella. Make sure he grows a lot. Wait till he expels all his influent coreligionists from the political scene.Suddently, he dies. Vacuum.

 After the vacuum, comes a fierce concours to fill the void. And with that struggle to power, suddenly emerges a list of potential successors that ends up making all of them puppets until one of them retakes control. Happened after Riad Solh’s assasination, happened after Bachir Gemayel’s assasination, and Rafic Hariri’s assasination is not an exception. 6 different Governments and 4 different Prime Ministers in 7 years. If you ask me, we’re still in the puppet phase. We recently got more involved in the puppet phase. 2 years ago, there wasn’t quite an alternative to Saad Hariri. Today, the current majority can replace Mikati with Safadi, Safadi with Siniora, Siniora with Hariri, depending on what it wants. Hariri took Siniora’s legitimacy in Future Movement, then partially gave away his popularity to the rising Mikati before losing half of the rest of his influence to other Sunni Radicals and even to his own Future Movement Sunni allies. The result is a group of 6 or 7 persons that can all be replaced with one another without creating a major boycott or tire-burning festival. Of course, not all of these are equally influent, but the abundance of the number makes all of them weak.

 Every possible heir is trying to prove himself before the next elections. 2014 is close. 2013 is even closer. Do not under any circumstances forget that. If you’re asking yourself what’s the link between the Presidential and the Parliamentary elections, the answer is clear. It’s not about securing a good number of MPs, that’s basically easy for Hariri and Mikati. It’s about securing the highest number of MPs, to assure a stable coalition. Both of them were replaced before, Mikati in 2005, and Hariri in 2011. And both of them know that the government will change after the presidential election of 2014. The facts might change too, so can the name of the prime minister named by the new President. Securing a relative majority is easy, but securing an absolute stable majority that will not compromise your name for the President’s one is very hard. Unlike 2005 and 2009, in 2013, there will be an actual Sunni-Sunni Competition. Unlike 2013, it’s not only Hariri. It’s not even only Hariri and Mikati. It’s the series of their strengthened former allies. For Mikati, they’re the local influential people such as AbdulRahim Mrad in the Bekaa, Ousama Saad in Saida, and Karami and Safadi in Tripoli, and for Hariri it is the self-distancing Jamaa Islamiyah and the emerging Radicals and Salafis, not to mention Future Movement officials that outnumber Hariri in influence such as Siniora. And most of the players in the game no that they cannot entirely control the Parliament with their allies.

Even a relative majority by 2013 will be hard to have. So you turn to plan B, used by Aoun in 2005, Berri in 2009 and Hariri in 2011. You make sure you get at least the majority of the votes of your coreligionists, and make sure that every government you do not head is illegitimate, because it doesn’t respect the pact of mutual existence. One couldn’t simply said no to Berri on the head of the legislative power in 2009, even though he was in the opposition. Same for Hariri. Jumblat turning on him right after the 2009 elections would’ve caused extreme Sunni anger and maybe a fitna. If Mikati and Hariri are equally strong, and if Mikati and Hariri don’t have together more than the two third of the Sunni votes, the victorious coalition in 2013 might easily name whoever it wishes to, and might easily replace the Prime Minister again and again. But if the Sunni heir is strong between his own people, Hezbollah or any other parties objecting to his name won’t have much power throwing him outside. The max they can do is requesting a unity government headed by that man. Mission accomplished.

As I sad before, 2013 is near. The candidate should work on passing the most convenient electoral law (1960 Law for Hariri), make sure the local clientele is satisfied (the proportion of Tripoli Ministers in the government is probably the highest ever, the 100 Millon Dollars to develop Tripoli in its timing looks like an electoral large scale vote-buying), show a pleasant face to the United States and the Gulf Emirates, arm the ones who want to be armed, appear like a just ruler, but most importantly, stress on the sectarian issues.

Hunger Games.