Middle East

‘Major confrontation’ with Hezbollah ahead, says Lebanon Christian politician

The Christian Lebanese Forces party will reject anyone aligned with the armed Shia movement, Hezbollah, as Prime Minister and stick to its boycott of government if a new consensus cabinet is formed, the party’s leader said on Wednesday, Reuters reports.

Lebanon is in the throes of one of the world’s worst economic meltdowns, according to the World Bank, with the local lira losing 90 per cent of its value since 2019.

Analysts have warned that the divisions in Parliament will likely delay consensus on reform laws needed to drag Lebanon out of crisis. They could also create a vacuum in top leadership positions.

While the LF and independent newcomers gained more seats in last month’s elections, they still failed to prevent Hezbollah ally, Nabih Berri, from securing a seventh term as Speaker in Parliament’s first session on Tuesday.

“If it’s a government that includes everyone as usual, of course we won’t approve and we won’t take part,” LF party chief, Samir Geagea, told Reuters.

READ: Nabih Berri re-elected as Lebanon’s Parliament Speaker

“…They (Hezbollah) shouldn’t celebrate too much,” he said, adding that the splits in Parliament would lead to a “major confrontation” between Iran-backed Hezbollah and its allies on one side, and the Saudi-aligned LF, on the other.

Tuesday’s session was the first since the new Parliament was elected on 15 May, in the first vote since Lebanon’s economic collapse and the Beirut port explosion of 2020 that killed more than 215 people.

The LF was founded as an armed movement during Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil wars, but officially laid down its arms after the conflict.

It has taken part in both parliament and cabinet, but has opted out of the latter since 2019, when widespread anti-government protests broke out in Beirut.

Independent lawmakers have balked at the LF’s roles in the war and in the political establishment more recently, but Geagea said newcomer MPs would have little influence if they did not align with his party.

“We all need one another to be able to go through the process of change and recovery that is required,” he said.

READ: The assassination of a senior Iranian officer makes an Israel-Iran confrontation more likely

Lebanon’s system of government now requires President Michel Aoun, an ally of Hezbollah and rival of the LF, to consult with lawmakers on their choice for Prime Minister.

Geagea declined to say whether the LF would support a fresh term for current premier and frontrunner, Najib Mikati, or if his party would back a different name.

The new cabinet will only last a few months, as Parliament is set to elect a successor to Aoun, whose presidential term ends on 31 October. The next president would then name a new premier.

Aoun came to power as President in 2016 with the LF’s backing, after decades of intense rivalry between the two.

But Geagea said his party would also veto any presidential nominee backed by Hezbollah this time.

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