Mikati Wins No Confidence Vote 68-60
The government of Lebanese billionaire Najib Mikati on Thursday won the parliamentary vote of confidence it needs to start work, Lebanon's Daily Star reported.
A total of 68 lawmakers in the 128-seat parliament voted for the Cabinet, which is dominated by ministers from the Shiite Muslim Hizbullah terror movement and its allies.
Supporters of former Prime Minister Sa'ad Hariri, who didn’t attend, walked out of the chamber in Beirut as voting began. Lawmakers voted after three days of debate on the Cabinet's policy statement, which must be presented within thirty days of forming a government.
The ministers were criticized by Hariri's supporters, whose government collapsed in January amid a dispute with Hizbullah over an inquiry by The Hague-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon into the 2005 killing of his father, former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.
Four Hizbullah members were indicted by the tribunal for plotting and carrying out the assassination to further Hizbullah's political agenda last week, which has led to tension in Lebanon’s parliament and a deadlock in producing its policy statement.
While Mikati said Lebanon will adhere to its international obligations, it remains unclear how he will succeed in mollifying his Cabinet’s Hizbullah allies after Hariri, who headed a national unity government, failed to do so.
Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah has said he will never turn the indicted men over "even in 300 years," alluding to the 30-day deadline Lebanon is obligated to meet in turning the indictees over under the STL charter.
“I wouldn’t expect the government to actively pursue these arrest warrants, as it would severely undermine the political stability of the country if they did,” Edward Bell, an analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit in London, said after the confidence vote.
“The chances of these four men actually being found or arrested is pretty implausible as is," he added.
The firestorm of criticism and walkout by Hariri's supports are in response to the Cabinet referring to the U.N. inquiry into Rafiq Hariri’s assassination in its policy document.
“Out of respect for international resolutions, the government affirms its commitment for the truth to be revealed,” the statement read. "And will follow the progress of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which was established in principle to achieve truth and justice, far away from any politicization or revenge, and without any negative impact on Lebanon’s stability, unity and civil peace.”
Hariri's allies accused the new Hizbullah-dominated government of being “against the international community,” and insisted the policy brief is a “coup against democracy” that “threatens, intimidates and warns against dealing with international justice.”
It is unclear whether the government, despite its victory in parliament, will be able to stave off the sectarian strife simmering just under the surface.