After surviving massive protests aimed at their own policies in Lebanon, the ruling coalition led by Interim Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Hezbollah applauded protestors in Egypt and agreed President Mubarak should step down.

While the international community has been watching events in Egypt unfold with optimism made cautious by recent clashes, an entirely different kind of political battle is happening in Lebanon.

Rather than widespread protests swelling to peacefully overthrow a strong-armed government autocrat as in Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, and Yemen, the Lebanese protesting these weeks are challenging the authority of a coalition of parties led by a political group some believe is bent on bringing authoritarianism to power through democracy.

Hezbollah’s apparent support for anti-authoritarian protest movements across the Arab world could be a sign – along with their backing of Mikati’s latest proposals for national unity- of their transformation from a militant political group to a party seeking change through government. However, based on a long track record of violence and biting rhetoric, few believe this.

At the heart of the current crisis, Lebanon is biting its nails wondering what will happen when the Special Tribunal for Lebanon publicizes the contents of an indictment against people accused of assassinating former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Many believe that senior members of Hezbollah and their allies will be among the accused.

In response to rumors, Hezbollah threatened the government, threatened the Tribunal, and now, with some bullying and help from swing votes, tore down the government and climbed in. It is a controversial example of how a political group that argues for authoritarian-style policies and bullies and threatens opposition can thrive in an early democracy.

Lebanon’s Daily Star offers a lot more detail on this crisis in Lebanon and how it differs, and in some way prophesies, what may be happening in other countries of the Middle East.

Photo: Orthuberra.

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