Lebanon may mark an historic day Tuesday as Hezbollah scrambles to secure a majority for its candidate for prime minister. Should the group succeed, caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Hezbollah's arch nemesis, will be forced to step down.
Hezbollah has thus far managed to obtain the support of 59 parliament members for business tycoon Najib Mikati, while Hariri has the support of only 49 lawmakers.
It is estimated that the Shiite group will manage to secure the rest of the necessary votes as part of two days of consultations conducted by Lebanese President Michel Suleiman. In order to earn the right to form a government one of the candidates will have to secure a 65 vote majority out of the parliament's 128 seats. The Hezbollah camp is only six votes away from their goal, which is estimated to be reached Tuesday.
On Monday, riots broke out in the northern Lebanese city of Triopli. Sunni demonstrators torched tires in protest of Mikati's candidacy.
Hariri supporters burn tires in Lebanon (Photo: Reuters)
Also Monday, Sunni parliament members declared a series of protest events as part of a "day of rage" to be held across Lebanon on Tuesday. "Hezbollah is trying to hand over control of the prime minister's bureau to Iran," they warned.
A statement issued by the protest organizers said: "Any person who will accept Hezbollah's prime minister's appointment will be considered a traitor." Mustafa Alush, a parliament member from Hariri's camp said in a press conference that the Sunnis oppose the "Persian patronage" in Lebanon but stressed that protest events scheduled for Tuesday will be calm in nature.
Recent protests in Lebanon are particularly noteworthy as such outrage has yet to be seen in Lebanon over the process of forming a government.
Meanwhile, Hariri continues to stand his ground and has not lifted his candidacy in favor of an alternative candidate who will be acceptable on both camps. "There is one candidate whose name is Saad Hariri and one candidate on behalf of March 8 (nickname for the Hezbollah camp)," he said. He also stressed his faction will not be part of any government formed by Mikati.
Going home? Hariri supporters kisses sign (Photo: Reuters)
Last week, 11 Hezbollah ministers resigned from Hariri's government and effectively toppled it. This was an act of protest over Hariri's refusal to withdraw his support from an international tribunal investigating his father's murder, former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. The tribunal is expected to indict Hezbollah militants for the assassination. The indictments were filed last week, but it won't be for another few weeks before their content is officially exposed to the public.
On Sunday, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah claimed that Hariri's supporters were trying to "politically assassinate" his movement.
"We have noticed recently that the matter of the indictments has been accelerated in order to put pressure on us and our allies out of political aims. After the indictments are filed we will not capitulate to any political conditions imposed on us," Nasrallah said.
He also thanked Druze leader Walid Jumblatt for his support of the Hezbollah candidate.
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