Following last week’s decision by Hezbollah to bring down the government of Saad Hariri, Lebanon has likely entered a period of extended crisis with a caretaker government. It will be marked by fitful attempts to form a new government; negotiations, scheduled to begin this week, have already been postponed.
This is the latest escalation in the long crisis over the U.N. special tribunal investigating the assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.
For the time being, the security situation remains calm, although tense. The crisis remains at the political level, and Hezbollah’s overwhelming military force makes it unlikely that its opponents will try to challenge it on the street.
On Monday, the tribunal announced that the prosecutor had submitted his sealed indictment to the pre-trial judge. The judge, Daniel Franson, is expected to take between six and 10 weeks to weigh the evidence. Franson can confirm or reject the indictment in whole or in part, or ask for more evidence.
Parliament remains divided between the March 8 coalition, backed by Hezbollah, and the March 14 coalition of Saad Hariri. Although the March 14 coalition has made clear that it will nominate Hariri for another term and the bulk of the opposition has said it will nominate an alternative -- probably former Prime Minister Omar Karami -- the outcome is uncertain. Druze leader Walid Junblatt and parliament speaker Nabih Berri have been urging both sides to return to negotiations. But tensions are riding high and no consensus is emerging.