As…expected, I guess, though it wouldn’t have been a total shock had something gone awry, Michel Aoun was elected the new President of Lebanon today, ending a more than 2 year vacancy in that position. Aoun is a former army chief of staff who, despite having fought against Syria and its allies during the Lebanese civil war, later made common cause with Hezbollah and other pro-Syrian factions in Lebanese politics, and his election was made possible through Hezbollah’s support and that of Saad al-Hariri, the Sunni politician who is aligned with anti-Syrian parties but will nevertheless now serve as Lebanon’s new Prime Minister. In the post-civil war Lebanese system, the PM (who traditionally must be a Sunni) is actually the more powerful figure, but the president (who traditionally must be a Maronite Christian) appoints the PM in consultation with parliament (whose speaker must be Shiʿa). It will be interesting to see how these two manage to work together, and how Hariri manages to work with a parliament that is still almost evenly split between pro- and anti-Syrian coalitions (the pros have a slight plurality).
There is an opportunity for a Hariri-Aoun partnership to take advantage of the attention Syria is getting (and of the effect that cheap oil is having on the Saudi and Iranian foreign aid budgets) to put Lebanese politics, which historically have been dominated by outside powers, on a more independent footing, which would be good for Lebanon. But that effort would face a lot of resistance from Lebanese factions that are themselves very involved in what’s happening in Syria. At any rate, the first order of business in this new, and maybe very brief, era of good feelings has to be finding a permanent solution to Lebanon’s recurring trash crisis, right?
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