Lebanon: the alliance between the CPL and Hezbollah in a state of brain death

Supporters of the Free Patriotic Movement and Hezbollah on October 30, 2022, as President Michel Aoun prepares to leave the presidential palace in Baabda on the last day of his term.


Text by: Paul Khalifeh Follow

6 mins

Nothing is going well between the Free Patriotic Movement (CPL, Christian) and the Shiite Hezbollah.

The end of the alliance which lasted sixteen years between these two great formations will reshuffle the cards on the Lebanese political scene.


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From our correspondent in Beirut, 

The impact of the deep disagreements that have emerged in recent weeks between the Free Patriotic Movement (CPL, founded by the former head of state Michel Aoun) and the pro-Iranian Hezbollah is all the more important since the alliance between these two major parties have punctuated Lebanese political life since they

signed an exhaustive "agreement" in February 2006


The resulting rapprochement has benefited both parties.

Thanks to the support of its Shiite ally, the CPL has established itself as a key player and the main representative of the Christian community in a political system based on a community distribution of positions within the state.

In this system called “political denominationalism”, the principle of Christian/Muslim parity is in force in Parliament, in the government and in the posts of first category civil servants in the public administration.

The function of Head of State is reserved for a Maronite Christian, that of President of Parliament for a Shiite, while the Prime Minister is always Sunni.

Between 2006 and 2016, this agreement resulted – even at the cost of political blockages that sometimes lasted for many months – in Hezbollah's support for its Christian ally in the formation of successive governments, the distribution of ministerial portfolios and appointments to administrative positions.

The CPL-Hezbollah alliance leads Michel Aoun to the presidency

This unfailing alliance was crowned, on October 31, 2016, by the election of Michel Aoun, proclaimed candidate of Hezbollah, to the presidency of the Republic.

In 2018, during the legislative elections, the alliance worked well, despite some hiccups, allowing the CPL, the Shiite party, as well as their allies, to obtain the majority of the seats in Parliament.

Hezbollah also took advantage of this relationship.

It gave it cross-community national coverage, thus preventing its political and popular isolation, as the United States and Israel would have liked.

The pro-Iranian party was thus able to marginalize those who demand, in Lebanon and elsewhere, the disarmament of its military wing, which it claims to retain, despite the end of the civil war (1975-1990) – to which it does not did not participate – to “ 

defend the country against Israeli aggression


From 2018, differences began to appear between the two allies, mainly over the approach to what the CPL calls the " 

fight against corruption


The Christian party exerted strong pressure on Hezbollah to push it to dissociate itself from the

speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri

, re-elected to this function without interruption since 1992. The main Shiite figure in the state, the latter is accused by the CPL of to be the most eminent representative of the "


" traditional political class

 , deemed responsible for the collapse of Lebanon.

However, the unity of the Shiites around the project of "

 resistance against Israel

 " constitutes for Hezbollah a sacred line of defense.

Any attempt to weaken or disavow Nabih Berri would have caused a dangerous split within the community, which is out of the question for the pro-Iranian party.

In the open war between Michel Aoun and his son-in-law Gebran Bassil (who took over the leadership of the CPL in 2016) on one side, Nabih Berri on the other, Hezbollah initially tried to mediate, then to pose as an arbiter to, finally, settle for the role of powerless spectator.

Bassil pays the price for his alliance with the Shiite party

Despite the misunderstandings, the alliance was never questioned.

Gebran Bassil also paid the price when the United States placed him, in November 2020,

on the sanctions list for corruption

, when the real reason is his refusal to break with Hezbollah.

The misunderstandings turned into deep disagreement with the approach to Michel Aoun's mandate last October.

Hezbollah has clearly expressed its support for the candidacy of former deputy

Sleiman Frangié

for the presidency of the Republic.

This Maronite leader from northern Lebanon is an old ally of the Shiite party and a friend of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

However, the CPL resolutely opposed this candidacy.

He publicly displayed his differences with Hezbollah after a long meeting between party leader Hassan Nasrallah and Gebran Bassil, which did not result in an agreement.

The relationship received another blow in early December when Hezbollah took part in a cabinet meeting.

However, the CPL, and with it the main Christian forces, believe that the current affairs dispatch government, chaired by Najib Mikati, is not entitled to inherit the prerogatives of the President of the Republic in this period of vacancy at the head of state.

The CPL, which usually settled its disputes with Hezbollah behind closed doors, laid out the dirty laundry in public, which greatly upset the Shiite party.

For more than two months, no contact took place between the leaders of the two formations to try to patch things up.

Failed Last Chance Encounter

Last week, a large Hezbollah delegation met for hours with Gebran Bassil without any agreement being found on the presidential election and the management of the country during this period of presidential vacancy.

The leader of the CPL reaffirmed his opposition to Sleiman Frangié's candidacy and the Shiite party did not undertake to boycott the next meetings of the Council of Ministers.

The two parties have agreed, however, not to address each other publicly any more so as not to sour relations.

This media truce only lasted a few days.

Sunday, January 29, Gebran Bassil said he was " 


" about the sustainability of his agreement with the Shiite party.


 There is a disagreement on the priority of building a state 

," he said during a televised intervention.


Only a strong state, free from corruption, can protect the Resistance

[alluding to Hezbollah, Ed]


The Resistance project must not be in contradiction with the project of building a State

 ”, hammered the Christian leader.

Words that show that the last thread that still united the CPL to Hezbollah could soon be broken.

See also Lebanon: end of Aoun's mandate, marked by political and economic turbulence


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