There were protests on the streets of Beirut after Hezbollah announced that its candidate, Sunni billionaire Najib Miqati, won enough support to form a government in Lebanon. Despite the efforts of American diplomats, Miqati received support from an independent bloc in Lebanon’s parliament to handily defeat his opponents. The election isn’t officially over until Tuesday, and Miqati’s win won’t allow Hezbollah to take full control, but it does mark a shift in power — and many are concerned about what this will mean for the region.
Miqati says he’s a “consensus candidate,” but that didn’t assuage concerns at home and abroad. Supporters of former Lebanon prime minister Saad al-Hariri burned tires and blocked roads in protest. And today Obama’s administration warned that a Hezbollah-led government would mean that it would be “difficult” to continue to support the country.
Hezbollah leader Seyed Hassan Nasrallah pledged to work toward “a partnership government,” but some within Hezbollah aren’t so sure. Like Saad Hariri, the son of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005. Hariri is Sunni like Maqati, but is not aligned with Maqati.
“It will not be easy for them to control Lebanon alone,” said Antoine Zahra, a Christian ally of Hariri’s bloc. “They will turn it into an isolated country, ostracized by the Arab world and the international community.”
And some are surprised that Hezbollah is making moves to work on the front lines. “Forming a government is not something Hezbollah has been enthusiastic about because they know it exposes them to very serious risks,” said Paul Salem, the director of the Carnegie Middle East Center. “Their preferred mode of operation is in the background.”