Political circles close to Hezbollah were whispering this around a year ago, and now it has come to pass: Lebanon’s parliamentary elections will be postponed for 17 months (instead of two years).
It took months of charades and maneuvering, which exhausted the public and naturally all political factions. It also required the stoking of security instability to convince those who were not convinced; this took place via periodic explosions in the city of Tripoli, or similar incidents elsewhere in the country, which provoked counter-reactions. This has all resulted in a hellish circle of events, whose function is to mask the source of the tension.
Since the outset, the following message has been relayed to all those concerned: Hezbollah is not interested in the Lebanese domestic situation; its sole focus is on one thing, Syria, and confronting the attempts to topple the regime there. This is the focus of its efforts and the mindset of its leaders; it is involved to the hilt in the crisis and is assigning no importance to anything else. Hezbollah considers the battle to be one of life or death, which can tolerate no losses or weakness, not to speak of defeat. Didn't the leader of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, say as much in his speech on Saturday, energizing his supporters and his base and promising them victory once again?
The process of exhausting Lebanon’s political circles required waging a campaign against the current parliamentary election law. This was followed by a process of factions outbidding themselves when it came to accepting the famous the Orthodox Gathering proposal, which would see each sect choose its own MPs and further fragment Lebanese society. Hezbollah did not hesitate to support the proposal, despite its dangers, because it raised the level of religious and sectarian polarization in the country. Some Christian groups then abandoned the proposal, after a reshuffling of cards between allies in the March 14 and March 8 camps; this was followed by a “hybrid” electoral law proposal, which once again reshuffled the cards. Some political factions have been heavily involved in the maneuvers to exhaust the public over the election law, without being aware of it – this is especially the case with rival Christian groups, each with its own objectives in mind. However, everyone has reaped the negative consequences of the move; in the end, they reached a fait accompli that required extending Parliament’s term, or in other words suspending political life in Lebanon.
Hezbollah was ready to accept the holding of elections, but on one condition, namely guaranteeing that it and its allies would secure a majority, with no centrist or neutral group able to tip the balance between the two rival camps. Most groups were saying, or acknowledging, that if the elections were held on the basis of the current law, they would produce the same result as now. Hezbollah would be unable to tolerate this, as it waged a battle for its future in Syria. The party was unready to gamble on the chance, however slight, that the voting results would constitute a new push for an alliance between its rivals, grouping the centrists, headed by President Michel Suleiman and MP Walid Jumblatt, along with the current head of the government. Suleiman has begun to ask Nasrallah – as he did two days ago – to pull his fighters out of Syria and bring them to Lebanon, and has said that he does not agree to seeing them fight on Syrian territory. It is a stance that would have enjoyed more support with the legitimacy of parliamentary elections backing it, had a new Parliament taken shape similar to the current one. The so-called kingmakers of the centrist faction would have been more irritating for Hezbollah after an election round such as this. Thus, these kingmakers, and thus the elections, needed to be neutralized.
The level of exhaustion of the political class, amid the maneuvering to arrive at a postponement of the elections, reached the point in which many "drowned” themselves in the searching for the problem in the Lebanese political system and the absence of the state, pointing to the political class’ inability to reach consensus on the election law. This was in order to highlight the crisis of the political system, and the absence of the state. In doing so, they ignored that what was happening merely reflected the regional-international struggle over Syria, which was bringing Lebanon along for the ride, by suspending the implementation of the Lebanese system and preventing the organizing of a formula that all Lebanese could agree on, to guarantee making Lebanon an annex of the Syrian situation. Do Lebanon's problems these days result from defects in the political system or in the external political formula that is blocking the political formula and foundations of this system?
There are those who say that Hezbollah’s anxiety about the possibility, however slight, that elections in Lebanon will cause a change, even if small, in the balance of power, might reflect its heavy involvement in the Syrian crisis. They say this is parallel to the anxiety of the Iranian leadership about the chance, however slight, that a change, even if small, will take place if Ali Akbar Rafsanjani wins the presidential elections in that country next month. Thus, there was a need to ban his candidacy by the elections supervisory body in Tehran, even though he is a long-time pillar of the Iranian revolution. The Iranian leadership will not tolerate the possibility, even if slight, that a different type of policy will emerge in terms of dealing with its momentous battle in Syria.
The Iranian regime and Iranian society have their mechanisms for dealing with developments of this type; likewise, the fact that Hezbollah was forced to paralyze the Lebanese political system to the benefit of the battle it is waging in Syria could be a prolonged affair. This battle will not be settled in the city of Qusair, or in rural Damascus; rather, it is a cat-and-mouse game that will continue for God knows how long.
The views expressed by the author do not necessarily represent or reflect the editorial policy of Arabstoday.