The successive developments [in Lebanon], with their internal and external dimensions, demonstrate that the shortest route to reaching solutions to these crises is through convergence and unconditional dialogue. This [reality] is reinforced by the successive international positions, which have stressed the need to sideline Lebanon from the surrounding developments, especially the Syrian crisis, and supported the dialogue efforts led by Lebanese President Michel Suleiman to avoid crises and reach compromises.
A diplomatic source told As-Safir that there are “ideas and perceptions that can be built upon to formulate the desired solutions for pending Lebanese issues, most notably those concerning the election law and the government.” The source adds that many decision-making foreign countries have been in contact with Lebanon on this basis, namely the United States and France.
The source hints at secretive [talks being held] with Lebanese leaders on the basis that it is possible to accomplish a viable Lebanese agreement without waiting for the conclusion of a new agreement in some capital — or a new Doha, Taif, or Saint-Cloud agreement. After the “Baabda declaration [calling for national dialogue],” what would prevent a “Baabda agreement?”
According to the source, this “means the announcement of a comprehensive package by the presidency as a Lebanese center of governance and consensus. The package — regardless of the election law or its results — includes an agreement on the name of the next prime minister, the form of government, the distribution of shares and ministerial positions, the course of the upcoming presidential elections (2014), key and sensitive appointments (security, military and administrative posts), and Lebanon's relationship with both Syria and Iran.
“The proposal was presented to the main forces in the March 8th coalition. Interestingly, the March 8th coalition did not comment positively or negatively on the package, while the Saudis remain in a state of hesitation until now.”
Why this package?
The diplomatic source says that "based on the solution that is being prepared, we must find a set of solutions regardless of the electoral law. In fact, any electoral law would have repercussions given the political divide plaguing the country. Any electoral law will determine the majority, the form of the government, the party who elects the president of the republic and the party who issues the core appointments. Therefore, it is better to find a new set of solutions that is internationally sponsored, one that is either prepared by the U.S. or probably France and Europe and that gets a Saudi-Egyptian-Iranian blessing.
The fact is that the Egyptian foreign minister's recent visit to Beirut was made in the framework of an attempt to take the pulse of the parties regarding the agreement on the mentioned set of solutions. Consequently, finding an electoral law becomes easier because regardless of who receives the majority, the identity of the prime minister will already be known, as well as the distribution of positions and shares in the new cabinet, the future of the presidential elections and the sensitive appointments."
The source pointed out "the silence of Hezbollah and Iran, which is entitled to act according to its interests," confirming that the "large international and regional support for the presidency paves the way for a solution from the Baabda Palace, amid repeated advices given to the Lebanese to rapidly respond to Suleiman's call for dialogue. Unfortunately, the very calls that the president makes are not heeded, but when leaders of influential countries make such calls, the Lebanese parties don't hesitate to listen.
For this reason, there is a big chance that the solution will come from within Lebanon, but this depends on the will of the Lebanese. The Lebanese leaders will either go to Baabda palace, or they will be put on a plane that will take them to a foreign capital and not bring them back unless they reach an agreement similar to the Taif or Doha agreements.
Some have nominated Cairo to be the meeting place for such an agreement at this stage, whereas others have suggested a European capital, which may be Paris. The source pointed out that “the motive behind the set of solutions comes from the fear of not holding parliamentary elections, because they will likely not take place according to the 1960 electoral law or to the Doha agreement, unless amendments are added to the aforementioned law.
It is important to be aware of the consequences of falling under the suspicion that the West wants the elections to be held according to the 1960 electoral law. The parties that endorse this idea might be looked at with suspicion. Moreover, those who have said that the West wants the March 8th coalition — and in particular Hezbollah — out of power are also wrong. The West is convinced that if it wasn’t for Hezbollah’s presence in power, Lebanon would have slipped into a civil war.” The source warned that “any Christian party that will agree to hold elections according to the 1960 electoral law will lose popular support, particularly among Christians.” He stressed that “ in case an agreement between Sunni and Shiite forces is not reached, the situation will remain the same or could even escalate. However, if an agreement is made, we will be on the path towards building Lebanon.”
This article was translated by Sami-Joe Abboud, Joelle El-Khoury and Naria Tanoukhi.