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A Recipe for Disaster

A Lebanese government is long overdue

By Elias A. Shaaya

Two tons of hummus and three tons of tabbouleh are the newest additions to Lebanon’s arsenal in its struggle with Israel. Almost two weeks ago, the Lebanese set out to break the world record for largest hummus and tabbouleh dishes, previously held by Israel. The events took place on consecutive days and brought together 300 chefs and hundreds of citizens. Remarkably, the event was publicized and encouraged by different Lebanese political parties.

Unfortunately, a similar degree of unison and cooperation is lacking from ongoing attempts to form a unity government. Lebanese politicians need to learn from their culinary counterparts and end the ongoing deadlock that has had the nation without an administration for nearly five months.

Internal dialogue seems to have led nowhere. After the June 7 elections, voters gave the March 14 coalition 71 seats and the opposition 57. Recently, however, MP Walid Jounblatt, the leader of the Druze majority, broke off from the March 14 coalition and formed a center bloc. Currently, no coalition has a simple majority, and the parliament is broken up into three groups. In light of the fragile situation, MP Saad Hariri was nominated to form a unity government: his attempts have yet to come to fruition.

The deadlock was initially thought to be caused by external pressures, especially from Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the West. Western countries have been engaging Iran in nuclear dialogues, and the Obama administration, supporters of the March 14 coalition, preferred a government “that reflects the parliamentary election’s results.” However, since the Lebanese president refuses to form such a government and since Iran cooperated with the West, the American position has only stalled the formation of any kind of government at all.

Another contributing factor to the stalemate was the Saudi Arabian king’s visit to Damascus. Relations between Syria and Saudi Arabia have been tense ever since the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, but relations between the two countries have been improving steadily ever since Syria and Lebanon established proper diplomatic ties, and the reconciliation was sealed by King Abdallah’s visit to Damascus over the summer. Politicians in Beirut followed the events carefully, hoping that any new development might steer the government in a new direction. Both countries have interests in different Lebanese parties and can influence their decisions.

Six weeks after the visit, the government has still not yet been finalized, even though all external pressures have been eased and international opponents have been calling explicitly for the formation of a strong government. Although big strides have been achieved and a rapprochement between parties has been made, a breakthrough is still awaited. Politicians have agreed on a 15-10-5 partition of ministerial positions: 15 for the coalition, three of them for Junblatt, 10 for the opposition, and five for the president. The only remaining question is, “Who gets what?” Politicians are fighting each other over the different ministries like school kids fighting over the last red crayon.

In the meantime, the Lebanese population has been left alone to fend off national threats such as the H1N1 epidemic, inflation, and national debt. Fraud, corruption, and poverty are also plaguing the country, and the situation is bound to get worse if political activity is not restored. Politicians need to sacrifice their personal gains for the good of the country. So far, the recipe for a government has proved to be far more difficult than that of hummus.

Elias A. Shaaya ’12, a Crimson editorial writer, lives in Eliot House.

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