x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Hizbollah entrenches after election loss

Hizbollah has been quite busy justifying both the opposition's defeat in the last Lebanese elections, and the steps that should be taken to get over that loss, wrote Ibrahim Bayram for the Lebanese daily An Nahar.

In the last few days, Hizbollah has been quite busy justifying both the opposition's defeat in the last Lebanese elections, and the steps that should be taken to get over that loss and come out of it with the least damage, wrote Ibrahim Bayram in his regular column for the Lebanese daily An Nahar. Being the backbone of the opposition, Hizbollah had to bear the full brunt of this defeat, especially since it was most vocal about the surety of victory prior to the elections.

Hizbollah, or "the party of God," thus far has adopted a three-pronged strategy: rationalisation of the defeat, maintenance of the opposition's unity and assessment of the majority's limitations. The party has put forward arguments such as "God's choice is always best" to account for their defeat, adding to it that the results would not alter the core political equation in the country. After a rather long delay the Hizbollah chief, Hassan Nasrallah, has made sure that he meets all the prominent figures of the opposition in order to create a unified political front to offset the influence of a March 14 majority in parliament. This majority, however "comfortable" it may look on paper, is not going to venture single-handedly in forming a "monochromatic" government, because it needs a wider representation to ensure a peaceful beginning to its rule.

There is mounting speculation about the current national assembly in Kuwait. Many wonder whether it will manage to conclude its term in the light of widening discord between the cabinet and the legislature, commented Jassem Boudi in the Kuwaiti daily Al Rai.

"No sooner does a parliament session start than threats of all kinds of grilling motions resound in the room," he said. This is in addition to heated polemics among the parliamentarians, casting aspersions that spare neither lineage, ethnicity nor honour. "But, while one could casually blame it all on the legislators, let us see if the cabinet has no finger in this outcome, no matter how hard it may try to efface itself in the backstage," Boudi offered.

From the very start, the formation of the government was obviously provocative to certain parliamentary blocs, considering that the change the polls have introduced in parliament were earnestly hoped to translate into a parallel transformation in the executive body, away from the usual conciliatory quotas. "Even worse, the government's methods did not change one iota." The cabinet is still adopting the same policy of headhunting for allies within parliament so that political debates are more internal dispute rather than dialogue between representatives of the people and the ministers, as executives of national programmes. "Who knows how long this parliament will stand?"

"The Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al Maliki, is trying to polish his public image by convincing Iraqis that he was the one that made Washington agree to a fixed date for withdrawal after long and exhausting negotiations," wrote Mazen Hammad in the Qatari daily Al Watan. Mr Maliki seeks to turn the pullout of the US troops from urban areas to his political advantage by ordering celebrations and decreeing June 30 "a day of national sovereignty and triumph."

Of course, the US occupation has only exacerbated ethnic and sectarian rifts in Iraq. The Kurds co-operated with the US forces, the Sunnis fought against it, while the Shiites had to support it in order to tighten their grip on power. Paradoxically, the withdrawal leaves the Sunnis, who lost the 2005-2007 sectarian conflict to the Shiites, deprived of the protection of the US forces against Shiite excesses despite the fact that they fought so fiercely against the presence of US forces. One could say that the security situation in Baghdad has improved significantly compared to a couple of years ago, when some 3,000 people would get killed every month. "In sum, the US may well wind up making a full withdrawal by the end of 2011 without laying down a single stone in the country."

As silence reigned over most Arab capitals, Damascus congratulated Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his re-election as the president of Iran. It deemed his win an eloquent response to the purported intrusions of foreign actors aiming to impugn the legitimacy of the elections, wrote Bourhan Ghayloun, the head of contemporary oriental studies at the Sorbonne University in Paris, in a comment piece for the Emirati daily Al Ittihad.

But, looking back, what is the real force that prompted millions of Iranians to take to the streets and defy the established order? Was it a democratic revolution intended to overthrow religious guardianship? Was it a foreign move aimed at destabilising a major pole in the Islamic opposition? Was it the product of an internal conflict framed in a reformist agenda that hopes to put an end to mismanagement and animosity towards the West, while preserving the religious character of political power under the Supreme Leader's system? Was it purely a class struggle?

"I believe what has happened in Iran is an amalgamation of all the above," Ghayloun argued. "It is a social, political and ideological movement, all at once. In this sense, it is a historical reoccurrence, only in reverse, of the 1979 Islamic revolution which emerged as an all-out uprising against the Shah." * Digest compiled by Achraf el Bahi aelbahi@thenational.ae