Lebanon’s future

Supporters of Lebanese President Michel Aoun at a rally in Beirut
Beirut, Oct. 31, 2016: Jubilant supporters of Lebanese President Michel Aoun wave flags of his Free Patriotic Movement and Hezbollah on the night of his election (source: dpa)
  • Lebanon’s political paralysis has slowed the economy and caused a breakdown in community services
  • The election of President Michel Aoun gives hope but is not yet a turning point
  • Hezbollah obstruction may keep a government from being formed for many months
  • Ultimately, Lebanon may not be able to resist pressure for partition

It has been a long time since anyone called Lebanon “the Switzerland of the Middle East,” even though it is still a playground for regional elites and a useful neutral area for political and diplomatic jousting. But as Syria’s civil war rages, the country has become something of a sideshow. Prince Metternich’s dictum that Lebanon shows whether there will be war or peace in the Levant may no longer apply.

On October 31, 2016, the Lebanese parliament finally elected a president – the veteran Christian politician, former general, and Hezbollah ally Michel Aoun – after a vacancy that had lasted two and a half years. The political maneuvering between the country’s two major coalitions (each composed of a bewildering variety of political, religious and ethnic groups), plus a bevy of independent parties was too intricate to be described here. But the result preserved the delicate structure of Lebanon’s multi-confessional state, which some had feared would be destroyed by the lengthening political stalemate.

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