Hizbullah protests parliament rejection

Calls for supporters to take to streets after Lebanon gov't refuses demands.

Hizbullah march 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Hizbullah march 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Lebanon's political crisis is moving to the streets. Hizbullah is making good on its threat to send tens of thousands of its supporters onto the streets of Beirut on Monday. Deputy chief Sheikh Naim Kassem said that, "I can say that this campaign will be varied and effective. Going down to the streets is one of the important steps that Hizbullah and its allies will take." Kassem's remarks follow a stalemate in weeklong discussions in which Hizbullah demanded a national unity government that would effectively give it and its allies one third representation in cabinet and the power to veto key decisions. The parliamentary majority refused their demands. The heated discussions ended Saturday without a new date being set for another round. According to Kassem, the talks failed because the anti-Syrian majority leaders refused to allow others effective participation in running the state. "The parliamentary majority camp foiled the dialogue because they don't want wide-scale Lebanese participation in government and they want to monopolize decisions in this country. This is something that we… can't be witnesses to," he said. Hizbullah has for some time been threatening to stage peaceful street protests that it says, "could bring down the government" if its demands were not met. Speaking on Hizbullah's Al-Manar television earlier this month, leader Hassan Nasrallah said, "Our concept of the national unity government is that all the basic forces in Lebanon be in it… actual and serious participation, not an aesthetic participation." Nasrallah threatened his street protests would force early elections. The Shi'ite group's bold moves reflect its push to consolidate the political power it gained following its self-proclaimed victory in the 34-day war with Israel over the summer. Hizbullah showed then it could amass popular support and analysts predict it would have no trouble getting its people to the streets. Some anti-Syrian leaders have pledged counter-demonstrations, raising fears of violence. On Sunday, the country's pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud claimed the cabinet was no longer legitimate following the resignation of five Shi'ite Muslim leaders, including two from Hizbullah, over the weekend. "After all ministers from the same sect resigned, the government of [Prime Minister Fuad] Saniora has lost its legal constitutional image. This makes any cabinet meeting from now on illegal and not constitutional," a statement from the president's office said. Lahoud has also rejected a request by Saniora for a cabinet vote on Monday over the United Nations draft document regarding the setting up of an international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri. The current paralysis in the country's parliament, which controls the security forces, could also harm the government's attempt to impose its control in southern Lebanon and restrain Hizbullah's military activities.