March 14 majority in doubt -- expert

Aug. 14, 2009 at 4:49 PM
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BEIRUT, Lebanon, Aug. 14 (UPI) -- The defection of Walid Jumblatt from Lebanon's Western-backed March 14 coalition disrupts any chance for a unity government in Beirut, experts say.

Jumblatt, the Druze head of the Progressive Socialist Party in Lebanon, announced Sunday he was leaving the March 14 coalition as Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri sets about forming the next government.

The Druze leader has moved progressively away from March 14 in recent months, inching closer to lawmakers with Hezbollah and other opposition leaders, notes Paul Salem, head of the Carnegie Middle East Center.

Jumblatt announced his alliance with March 14 had ended "out of necessity," suggesting his allegiance over with the establishment of a formal panel to investigate the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri, a main March 14 objective.

In June parliamentary elections, Jumblatt had sided with the majority March 14, however, and his departure upsets a power-sharing agreement brokered with members of the opposition, Salem writes.

Meanwhile, if PSP members follow Jumblatt and leave March 14, the anti-Syrian coalition will lose the majority it had secured in the June elections and subsequently cast doubts on the nomination of Saad Hariri as the next prime minister.

The March 14 slate will remain durable despite the Jumblatt decision, Salem adds, but it leaves the majority position in the Lebanese Parliament in serious doubt.

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