Cabinet Formation and the Telecommunication Debacle

By Ghassan Karam “Be Careful what you wish for because it might come true” is a proverb that the FPM should have taken to heart.

By Ghassan Karam

“Be Careful what you wish for because it might come true” is a proverb that the FPM should have taken to heart. Ever since its inception general Michel Aoun has coveted power. Obviously his first goal was that of the presidency and arguably it was that desire which led him to conclude that Faustian bargain with Hezbollah.  The traditional seats of opposition were not good enough for him and his allies and so they resorted to all sorts of machinations and bizarre tactics that culminated in their getting a veto power in a cabinet after a parliamentary election that they did not win. Many, including yours truly, blame March 14 for blinking first.

But a veto power was not enough; Hezbollah and its allies had their eyes set on the cabinet. Well four months ago they brilliantly executed a legal parliamentary maneuver that forced the cabinet led by Sa’ad Hariri to resign. They also managed to convince Walid Jumblatt and his bloc to cast their votes with them and against March 14. As a result they did become the new majority especially after agreeing to support the candidacy of Mr. Mikati who was in turn supported by another two parliamentarians from Tripoli. That was when the wish to form the majority became true. Not much since then has gone right either for the FPM, HA or the new majority. It has been over nine weeks since the official designation of Mr. Mikati as the new PM but all what has happened is to run on the spot.

The FPM through its leader GMA, has frustrated the efforts to form a cabinet by coming up with all sorts of impossible demands.  It is not farfetched to conclude that these demands were designed on purpose to be impossible to meet since there was no interest by the senior partner ; Hezbollah; to form a one colour cabinet. I suspect that when the plan to force the March 14 cabinet to resign was hatched, HA accepted to support the nomination of Mr. Mikati, an independent politician, hoping that March 14 will agree to join the cabinet in a junior capacity. That would have enabled them to present the cabinet as a “national unity” government which will force the hand of the US and other countries to accept the new set up which in effect would be controlled by Hezbollah.

When Mr. Mikati proved to be more independent than Hezbollah had bargained for and when he failed to get March 14 to join the cabinet Hezbollah’s plan to rule by using others as a front collapsed. That is when Hezbollah and its allies, primarily the FPM, had to go to plan B, a plan to bargain for time and to find a way of withdrawing the designation of premiership from Mr. Mikati. Hezbollah has been the puppet master ever since 2005 and the role continues. They pull the strings and the FPM dances to their tune.

The latest despicable act in this charade became clear two days ago. As usual, the FPM agreed to instigate a crisis through one of their favourite two actors in the cabinet. This time it was the turn of Minister Nahas when two weeks ago it was Mr. Basil and prior to that it was Nahas. This time around the plan seemed to work very well initially until the details of what went on became available. Mr. Nahas, the current telecommunication minister in the takeover cabinet, put on a spectacular show. He demanded the right to dismantle telecommunication equipment and move them from one company ,OGERO, to another, MTC. When the ISF, under the leadership of Rifi prevented Mr., Nahas from entering the premises he contacted the interior minister Baroud complaining about the ISF behavior. Ziad Baroud ordered Rifi to allow Mr. Nahas and his entourage to complete their task. Mr. Rifi refused to obey an order from his superior  which led Mr. Baroud to resign. Now let us look behind the scenes to understand the motives for this charade.

An important principle in law is to ask the question what does a person know and when did she know it? Well in this case Mr. Nahas cannot claim that the telecommunication equipment was a surprise to him since he was one of the official delegation  that received this equipment and celebrated its installation in the presence of the Chinese ambassador whose government has donated the equipment in question over a year ago. So if neither the equipment nor its installation was a surprise why didn’t the minister complain/confiscate the equipment a year ago or maybe two months ago? The answer is very simple; he wanted to put on a PR show full of theatrics demonstrating the bankruptcy of the outgoing cabinet and the vigilance of the new majority.  The FPM has already demanded both the Interior ministry and the telecommunication and 8- 9 other ministries and this debacle where minister Baroud exploded prematurely showing a weakness to take a stand and demand an investigation of the behavior of both Mr.Rifi and Mr.Nahas.  This appeared to strengthen  the demand for a stronger interior minister in addition to making a case that Mr. Nahas was vigilante and must retain his cabinet assignment in the new government.  The plan to form a cabinet four months ago did not materialize, the plan to obfuscate and delay has worked for a while until it became evident that those who call for the immediate formation of a new cabinet are the ones who are erecting , behind the scenes, all the barriers to prevent the cabinet formation. And finally the latest plan to present FPM as the saviours and to force Mr. Mikati to form a cabinet where the PM is only a figure head has also backfired. This whole show was planned and had no merit.

The wish to rule was granted 9 weeks ago but as the proverb says: beware of what you wish for, it might just happen. FPMs quest for power is never ending and unprincipled. What is worse is that they do not realize that they are merely puppets manipulated by the Grand puppeteer Hezbollah.