Lebanon's government won a parliamentary vote of confidence on Thursday, as the prime minister vowed that his cabinet would cooperate with a UN-backed court charging Hezbollah members in the 2005 murder of ex-premier Rafik Hariri.
Moments after the country's pro-Western opposition walked out, Prime Minister Najib Mikati's Hezbollah-dominated government secured 68 out of a possible 128 votes in parliament, where the Iranian-backed Shia group Hezbollah and its allies hold a slight majority.
However, March 14 MPs Robert Ghanem and Imad al-Hout abstained from the vote, while all of the other March 14 deputies withdrew from parliament right before the voting process began.
According to MTV, Speaker Nabih Berri commented on the withdrawal of the March 14 MPs by saying that “it is their democratic right [to do so].”
Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt was also quoted as saying, “This is democracy and the most important thing is that [the cabinet] received [the vote of] confidence.”
Thursday's vote capped three days of parliamentary talks on the government's political programme, which had triggered a heated debate between the majority and the opposition, led by Hariri's son and political heir Saad Hariri.
Hariri did not attend Thursday's session.
Mikati's program includes an ambiguously worded clause stipulating that Lebanon will "respect" international resolutions as long as they do not threaten peace and stability.
But the opposition had demanded that Mikati state his government was "committed" to the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which last week ordered the arrest of four Hezbollah members over the Rafik Hariri assassination.
In his speech to parliament Thursday, Mikati stated in no uncertain terms that his government would "continue to cooperate" with the Netherlands-based court, which for years has been at the centre of an intractable political feud in Lebanon.
"The government confirms it will continue the path of the tribunal ... and continue to cooperate in this regard as per the UN Security Council Resolution which set up the tribunal to see justice served," Mikati said ahead of the vote.
"I am following my conscience, my ethics, my loyalty to [late] prime minister Rafik Hariri," Mikati said when interrupted by a member of the opposition, prompting a round of applause from the audience.
Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Syrian- and Iranian-backed militant group, has slammed the STL as a US-Israeli conspiracy and last week said he doubted the four Hezbollah members wanted by the court would ever be found.
Mikati says his cabinet is determined to cooperate with STL