Diplomacy

Opponents Grow Angry as Hezbollah Ices Presidential Election

A Hezbollah-linked member of Lebanon’s parliament took to Voice of Lebanon radio to declare that lawmakers from his Loyalty to the Resistance bloc would exercise what he described as their “constitutional right not to enter parliament,” setting up a deadlock in what will be that body’s third attempt to elect a president on Wednesday.

The March 8 alliance, which Hezbollah anchors, had previously been blasted by Lebanese President Michel Suleiman for boycotting such sessions:

“It is unacceptable to apply democracy by obstructing the election process through not providing a quorum,” Suleiman said on Sunday, during the opening of the President Michel Suleiman Sports Village in his hometown of Amchit.

“Do the concerned [parties] not know that… the continuity of the [Lebanese] entity depends on the election of a president?”

MP Kamel Rifai nonetheless told the radio station that he and allied MPs would again decline to participate in the parliamentary procedures, emphasizing that they had no obligation to do so because they do not have a candidate. The trick has not gone unnoticed by Hezbollah’s opponents. The Future bloc on Tuesday issued a statement calling on March 8 to select “a candidate for the upcoming parliamentary session in order to prevent void in the president’s seat.”

The statement was blunt in linking Hezbollah’s refusal to do so to Iranian machinations, blasting a recent statement by a top aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei:

“This statement is a very dangerous development that reveals the true purposes behind Iran’s relation with Hezbollah, and the missions that Iran gives to [this] party,” the statement read.

“The statement brings up the following question: Is Hezbollah a party specialized in defending Lebanon against Israel and its aggressions, or is it a party specialized in defending Iran and its regime?”

Yahya Rahim Safavi had described southern Lebanon as Iran’s “frontmost line of defense” and boasted that Iran’s “strategic depth has now stretched to the Mediterranean coasts and just to the north of Israel.”

The organization had long leveraged its now-shattered brand as an indigenous Lebanese organization protecting Lebanese territory against outside interference, using the pretext to amass a massive arsenal and insulate a state-within-a-state across swaths of Lebanon.

It’s position had for many years been echoed by segments of the Western foreign policy establishment.

[Photo: AFP new agency / YouTube]