BEIRUT — Political analysts say that the manifesto unveiled by Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah on Nov. 30, its second since 1985, represents a shift in the party’s position, from Iranian proxy to being part of Lebanon's domestic scene.
The first manifesto called for Islamic rule in Lebanon. In recent years, however, as the party has gained greater political influence, party leaders have softened their tone on the issue.
Beirut-based Carnegie Middle East Centre Director Paul Salem said, "The new manifesto is reassuring, as it reflects Hezbollah's integration into Lebanese political life...This document strikes a balance between the party's ties to Lebanon and its ties to the state of Iran."
The new manifesto confirms changes in Hezbollah's views of Lebanese diversity. Nasrallah stated that the time had come for the party to make pragmatic changes, without abandoning its commitment to its Islamic ideology, which has ties to Iran's religious establishment.
Nasrallah added that people "evolve, and the whole world has changed over the past 24 years. Lebanon has changed, and the world order has also changed."
Hezbollah’s online media officer Hussein Rahal said, "Our religious dimension cannot be eliminated. The party reads Lebanon's political issues in an objective and civil manner. It is a civil party, but with a religious dimension."
Some Lebanese members of parliament, however, see no difference between what the party says now and what it said 24 years ago. According to Ahmed Fatfat, the new manifesto simply reshuffles old positions and presents them in a new format.
Political commentator Qassim Qaseer said that Hezbollah previously considered itself to be in a state of war with the Lebanese regime. Today, however, it is represented in the government and calls for change via democratic means. Unlike the 1985 document, the new manifesto supports a reform agenda more than it does an Islamic one, he contends.
On the other hand, some in parliament claim the 32-page manifesto will become a source of greater dispute, as it argues that parliamentary democracy will have to be given up in order to maintain a consensus democracy, and that Hezbollah will continue to build an arsenal of weapons.
Despite reservations by both Christian and Muslim clerics, however, it is likely that the Council of Ministers will approve the manifesto.