Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has warned that if Hezbollah and its allies gain a legislative majority in the May 15 elections, Lebanon will be denied promised regional and international assistance.
“There are no signs that Arab and international aid will be forthcoming if Hezbollah continues to control Lebanon,” Siniora told Al Arabiya English on Monday.
In another statement carried earlier in the day by Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency, Siniora, a harsh critic of Hezbollah, said: “What does it mean if Hezbollah and its allies gain a majority in Parliament? Amid Hezbollah’s control [of Parliament], will there be a possibility for any salvation, reforms, and Lebanon’s recovery after it was pushed into this deep abyss: a kidnapped state, a fully collapsing economy, the threat of depositors losing their money and the need for reforms in all aspects of life such as electricity, water, food, medicine and education? Definitely, no.”
“With the expansion of the control of Hezbollah and the sectarian and confessional parties allied with it, this will be at the expense of the Lebanese state and its institutions, which will lead to the continued implementation of Iran’s agenda in the region. In this case, there will be no aid and no Arab or international support,” Siniora added.
Despite the fact that he will not be participating in the upcoming elections, Siniora is backing an 11-member electoral list that will vie for Sunni seats in parliament in the Beirut district after former Prime Minister Saad Hariri opted to step down.
A professor of economics and international relations agreed with Siniora, predicting that a victory for Hezbollah and its supporters in the election will exacerbate the Lebanese difficulties and stymie efforts to save the country’s economy.
“A victory by Hezbollah and its allies in the elections is bound to block the road to the possibility of Lebanon’s economic salvation. Consequently, the situation will continue to deteriorate and Lebanon will no longer exist on the map because the economic collapse means the state’s inability to survive, while it is already unable to survive,” Dr. Sami Nader, a professor of economics and international relations at Universite St. Joseph in Beirut, told Al Arabiya English.
“When a central authority collapses, the entire country heads toward disintegration. Frankly speaking, Hezbollah’s victory will further complicate the situation in Lebanon,” stated Nader, who is also the director of the Beirut-based Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs.
Concerns about the election results come as Lebanon’s beleaguered administration, which has been beset by crises, has gotten a fresh lease on life thanks to two positive occurrences earlier this month, sparking optimism that the country will begin to emerge from its darkest economic crisis.
First, Gulf Arab powers expressed their determination to normalize relations with Lebanon, putting an end to a five-month embargo. Then, with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a preliminary deal was made, which should lead to a bailout program to save the country’s deteriorating economy, which is burdened with over $90 billion in public debt.
It remains to be seen if Lebanon will live up to its promises by enacting long-overdue changes demanded by the IMF and international donors in exchange for billions of euros in promised aid.
These developments follow Hezbollah’s warning that plans are afoot to postpone elections in order to prevent it from securing a majority in the next parliament.
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said in a televised speech earlier this month that polling company results suggested that the party and its supporters would retain the majority they presently hold in the outgoing parliament.
Nasrallah then accused the US and other foreign embassies in Beirut of attempting to “disrupt” the polls by postponing them for several months. He stated it was in the hopes that the Future Movement group, which has the most Sunni representation in Parliament, would reconsider its decision not to field candidates or participate in the polls, which were regarded “crucial” by the international community and the majority of Lebanese people.
Following the collapse of the economy and financial sector, Lebanon is experiencing the biggest monetary crisis in its history. There is optimism that the elections will bring about political reform, allowing the country to emerge from its economic crisis, which the World Bank has labeled as one of the worst since the 1850s. It is the most serious threat to the country’s stability since the 1975-1990 civil war.
However, according to a political science expert at the American University of Beirut, the election results would have little impact.
“When it comes to Lebanon, expect the unexpected, even though I do not think the elections will be postponed. Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah is probably warning about postponing the elections to prod Shia voters to go to the polls in large numbers.” Dr. Hilal Khashan explained to Al Arabiya English.
He went on to say that the votes will not solve the fundamental issues that Gulf Arab states have been complaining about, such as Hezbollah’s rising influence in Lebanon and its involvement in regional crises.
“Hezbollah and its allies already control the Parliament. Even in the unlikely event that Hezbollah and its allies do not win a parliamentary majority, nothing will change in Lebanon,” Khashan said. “Lebanese politics is not determined in the parliament, which is only a rubber stamp for cabinet compromises and accommodation. I do not see the elections as providing a panacea for Lebanon and its financial collapse. The elections will not resolve the key issues that the Gulf countries have against Hezbollah – its military component and ties with Iran,” he added.
According to Khashan, Lebanon would stay under Iranian influence via Hezbollah regardless of who wins a parliamentary majority.
“No matter who emerges victorious from the general elections, Iran will continue to control Lebanon via Hezbollah,” Khashan said. “Let me reiterate, the Lebanese parliament is not a decision-making body, and it does not differ from other Arab parliaments. It ratifies and endorses agreements made outside its walls.”