The Lebanese opposition, which last month pressed the Syrian government to pull out its forces from the country, is fragmenting along sectarian lines, much to the dismay of their constituents and the people, who hoped for a fresh start after the Syrian pullout last month.
Al-Hariri’s 14 Febuary killing brought together Christians, Druze and Sunni Muslims, who held Syria responsible and took to the streets to demand that their larger neighbour end its 29-year military and intelligence presence in Lebanon.
The protests toppled the pro-Syrian government and security chiefs, and secured an international probe into al-Hariri’s death.
“Rafiq al-Hariri’s blood will not go to waste,” Saad al-Hariri, the Sunni Muslim former prime minister’s son, told a cheering audience on Sunday.
“We will not let sectarian rancour affect the unity of Beirut and the Lebanese”
“We will not let sectarian rancour affect the unity of Beirut and the Lebanese. We will not allow any … sectarian strife the opportunity to sabotage the achievements that have been secured.”
But cracks have emerged. Christian opposition figures wanted electoral boundaries to be redrawn before the polls, fearing their voices were lost in large, majority-Muslim districts.
Wheeling and dealing
Political sources say al-Hariri’s bloc and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt broke with them to strike a secret deal with the pro-Syrian Shia Hizb Allah and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri to keep an electoral law that serves them all well.
Lebanon’s political system carefully distributes offices among the various religious minorities who fought a 15-year war that split the country into Christian and Muslim enclaves.
Voting takes place in four rounds between 29 May and 19 June. Al-Hariri’s list is expected to sweep the vote in mainly Sunni Beirut.
Al-Hariri was due to unveil his list last week, but delayed the announcement because of a dispute within the opposition over who should fill the one Maronite seat in Beirut.
Two candidates bowed out on Sunday, handing the seat to the only one remaining, Solange Gemayel, whose husband Bashir led the right-wing Phalange Party until he was assassinated in 1982, soon after being named president.
The four electoral lists unveiled so far are expected to win under the existing electoral law.
Berri, a Shia Muslim with close ties to Syria, is joining forces with the Hizb Allah resistance group in southern Lebanon to run two joint tickets that are expected to win all 23 seats.
Opposition MP Jumblatt (R) is
Meanwhile, Jumblatt announced an alliance on Sunday with his war-time foes, the Maronite Lebanese Forces (LF), in his Shouf mountain stronghold.
Most of the same faces are likely to return. However, supporters of anti-Syrian former general Michel Aoun, who returned from exile this month, are expected to win several seats along with some other Maronite opponents of Damascus.
With two weeks left and with international pressure on Lebanon to hold elections on time, political sources say the law is unlikely to change.