Wither the Cedar Revolution: Two Lebanese Deputies Give Their Views | Wilson Center

Wither the Cedar Revolution: Two Lebanese Deputies Give Their Views

Summary of presentation by Ibrahim Kanaan and Ghassan E. Moukheiber, Deputies in the Lebanese Parliament and members of the Change and Reform Bloc.

The chain of peaceful demonstrations and popular civic action that culminated in the Cedar Revolution was set in motion by the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Activists involved in the demonstration called for an end to Syrian military occupation, the establishment of an international commission to investigate the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the dissolution of the Pro-Syrian government, and the organization of parliamentary elections, which have since been held.

Ibrahim Kanaan, a Lebanese Parliamentarian, shared his views about the challenges facing the country after the Cedar Revolution. He noted that the Cedar Revolution liberated the Lebanese state from Syrian dominance, but failed to strengthen the democratic framework and institutions. He felt that the multi-confessional alliance for national unity that led the revolution collapsed when some of the main parties struck electoral deals instead of focusing on the issues necessary to reinvigorate the state. Unfortunately, the country is currently ruled by a government with no political visions, whose actions are influenced by international pressures, causing uncertainty and instability, said Kannan.

The electoral law that was approved by parliament immediately before the parliamentary election of May 2005, he said, led to gerrymandering, and created a parliamentary majority based on misrepresentation of the popular vote, and ultimately the election of an unrepresentative government. The power struggle between political parties has paralyzed the government and state institutions. Furthermore, there is immense external destabilizing pressure from Syria and Iran, while on the other hand Saudi Arabia and the United States are taking on positive initiatives in support of Lebanon, said Kannan.

Before the war with Israel, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and the Change and Reform Bloc hoped to help the country reach national unity by taking an initiative to assist the implementation of UN Resolution 1559 through internal dialogue. The FPM sought seriously to engage Hizbollah and talks culminated in the announcement of a memorandum of understanding that outlined a framework for improving relations with Syria and disarmament of Hizbollah. The national dialogue table and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's seven point plan both adopted the majority of the clauses included in the memorandum of understanding after the end Hizbollah-Israeli war. Kannan acknowledged that the FPM created an opportunity that the government failed to take advantage of; instead, FPM was accused of cooperation with Syria and Iran, and its intentions questioned.

The first step to solving the Lebanese quagmire, he said, is to reinvent the power sharing equation through political reform, focusing specifically on the creation of a new electoral law, new parliamentary elections, and resolution of the presidential stalemate. The second step is the creation of an international tribunal to try the parties implicated in the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, resolution of the Shebaa Farms and final delineation of Lebanese borders, and the prisoner swap with Israel. There is also a need, he said, to improve Lebanese-Syrian relations within a framework of dialogue, demark borders, establish diplomatic relations, and disclose the fate of Lebanese detainees in Syrian jails. A fourth step is to disarm Palestinian groups and extend Lebanese authority over Palestinian refugee camps. He concluded that the Cedar Revolution requires a new vision in order to fulfill its original goal of achieving a secure, stable, and independent Lebanon.

Ghassan E. Moukheiber noted that the Cedar Revolution had not withered; instead, it was an incomplete dream. He proposed a road map for stability and reconciliation, a two-pronged solution that would require a separation of internal and external affairs. He noted that foreign interference must be discouraged and government institutions and civil society must be strengthened if Lebanon's fragile sovereignty, governance, and democracy are to be addressed appropriately.

There are three main threats to Lebanese stability and sovereignty, including: Israel, Syria, armed Palestinian groups, and other organized terrorist groups with international links. Despite the fact that Syria has withdrawn, there are still major outstanding issues, including the normalization of bilateral relations and the disappeared, which has been inappropriately addressed. The best solution, he said, would be to establish an international commission of inquiry because, unfortunately, bilateral structures have been ineffective in reaching an acceptable resolution. Furthermore, Syrian-Lebanese relations can be improved through the demarcation of borders, resolution of the disputed Shebaa Farms, and establishment of diplomatic representation.

Lebanon, he added, must strengthen state institutions and political mechanisms by establishing a new electoral law, which will allow for fair representation of all groups in Lebanon. Second, the parliament should serve as a forum for dialogue and must include appropriate oversight over the executive. Ghassan explained that the two MP's were invited by the U.S. Commission of Democracy Assistance in order to foster cooperation between parliaments, to exchange best practices, and to strive towards institutional reform. In order to work towards reform, it is also necessary, he said, to bestow the constitutional council with the power to be an internal arbiter of conflicts between the executive, cabinet, and legislative branches as it was originally intended to be in the framework of the Ta'if Accord. The establishment of an independent judiciary is also key, in his view, to fighting corruption, maintaining a balance, and ensuring the respect for the rule of law. He called for the establishment of an international commission that would investigate the cases of the Lebanese detained in Syrian jails, and review the violations committed during the war between Hizbollah and Israel through the framework of International Humanitarian Law.

He concluded by reflecting upon the U.S.-Lebanese relations, calling for improved communication between the two countries. The Cedar Revolution accomplished a great deal but more needs to be done. Lebanese democracy will remain a beacon for a country that is viable and bloom again as it was our dream during the 14th of March, said Ghassan.

Drafted by Azucena Rodriguez,
Middle East Program