How Tammam Salam Became A Consensual Candidate

Tammam SalamTammam Salam (REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir)

Tammam Salam (REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir)

Tammam Salam. That’s the name of the man that will be tasked to form a new government once the consultations end. A consensual Prime Minister it seems.

A small background

Tammam Salam boycotted the elections of 1992 – like most of the Christians at the time – as a refusal of Syrian hegemony. Salam participated in the 1996 elections and won. In the 2000 elections he lost against Rafiq Hariri and in the 2009 elections he won in Saad Hariri’s list. That kind of makes him a centrist person. He also doesn’t speak about Syria and its crisis and doesn’t criticize Hezbollah, at least not like other Future Movement MPs. He has an Islamic influence coming from the Makassed foundation. He’s also from Beirut. The last time a PM was a Beiruti was 13 years ago. His Grandfather was Beirut’s MP in the Ottoman parliament, and was also the head of the Municipality. His father was Prime Minister under Bechara El Khoury, Camille Chamoun, Fouad Chehab, and Sleiman Frangieh. That’s four of the five Pre-war presidents of Lebanon. The Lebanese flag was also drawn in his father’s house. That last thing probably doesn’t matter, but you can see what I mean.

Tamam Salam is in the middle. Between Christians and Muslims, between Shias and Sunnis. And he’s strong within the Sunni community (A thing Mikati suffered with at the beginning). He is also a Beiruti, and not any Beiruti. He is the son of Saeb Bey Salam, and the grandson of Salim Ali (Abu Ali) Salam.

How it all started

Tammam Salam was nominated as M14’s candidate, and Jumblatt endorsed him, after refusing Rifi. Tammam Salam won’t participate in the elections if he’s nominated, which means that his success (If he succeeds) won’t be a direct threat to Mikati and Hariri. Tammam Salam visited Saudi Arabia  whose ambassador in Lebanon ironically said in the same day that the Saudis  do not interfere in Lebanese Politics – where he got the blessing he needed. Also, after the Saudi ambassador – who ironically said that the Saudis do not interfere in Lebanese Politics – visited Mikati, Mikati said he doesn’t want to be Lebanon’s next Prime Minister. Then, after leaving Saudi Arabia – whose ambassador in Lebanon ironically said that the Saudis  do not interfere in Lebanese Politics – one day before he gets nominated, Tammam Salam came back to Lebanon. Here you go, Saudi Arabia’s support.

And then?

Now’s here’s the tricky part. Hezbollah lost Mikati. Hezbollah also lost Jumblatt. And Hezbollah is losing Syria. Hezbollah can’t also repeat what he did in 2011. The elections are way too close. He made that mistake on the 7th of May 2008 and lost the 2009 elections because of it. So what will Hezbollah do? He plays it smart. M8 can endorse Karami, Tabbara, Abdul Rahim Mrad, or anyone else, but the M8 coalition will probably lose because Jumblatt won’t give his support. Instead of fighting a lost battle, they take M14’s achievement, make Jumblatt’s swing votes look useless – while they’re not at all – and push with Tammam Salam making him a consensual candidate. That’s how M14 don’t exactly look like winners, and Saudi Arabia’s increasing influence (while Syria is on fire) doesn’t look that important because Salam is suddenly everyone’s candidate. And he can be everyone’s candidate. Check the background part again.

It’s only the beginning

It’s a huge responsibility for Tammam Salam. He will have to form a unity cabinet (Because Jumblatt wants a unity government), make sure we have a new electoral law (now that the Christian parties will boycott any elections under the 1960 law) and organize elections. He’s also short on time because the parliament’s expiry date is soon unless it extends its term. Forming a government, agreeing on an electoral law and organizing elections all in 3 months is a mission impossible. Only to form a government, it took Hariri five months and Mikati  seven . And that’s another dilemma for Tammam Salam. Will he agree on the parliament’s term extension? What will his stance be on the STL, the issue that brought Hariri’s government down? What will his stance be  on the name of the ISF commander, the issue that brought Mikati’s government down? It’s going to be a tough road for Salam. It’s going to be even more difficult when different parties will start asking their share of the cake, and we might have a new interesting slice of the pie this time: The ministry of Petroleum.

 The real winners? Prime Minister Tammam Salam, Kingmaker Walid Jumblatt, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Jumblatt is already enjoying his success: Naming the PM, choosing the type of the government, and even Vetoing.

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