Between economic, political and social crises, what future for Lebanon?

One week after the explosion that destroyed part of Beirut and left at least 171 dead, Lebanon no longer has a government. On the streets of the capital, residents clean up rubbish and rise up against the entire ruling class that is judged to be damaged.

Between tears and shouts, hundreds of Lebanese gathered on Tuesday, August 11, near the ruins of the port of Beirut. In addition to the tribute to the victims of the explosion, which destroyed much of the city, leaving at least 171 dead and 6,000 wounded, it was also the ruling class that attacked. “We will not mourn, we will not have black before we have buried power,” a speaker said in front of the audience.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s announcement on Monday that the entire government had resigned was not enough to quell the anger of protesters, who for months condemned endemic corruption at all levels of state and severe economic crisis, which hit Lebanon in 2019. “My brother died because of state neglect, due to corruption “, coward to AFP Ali Nourredine, holds the portrait of Ayman, 27 years old, a soldier who was in port. “It will change as the whole regime changes.”

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Hurry up

Prime Minister Hassan Diab, an academic himself, admitted that he had his hands tied when he took office on January 21 with a government of technocrats, after Saad Hariri, also pushed to resign from the demonstrations. “I had said before that corruption is intervening at all levels of government but I have found that corruption is stronger than the state. We respond to the people’s desire for real change in the face of destructive corruption. Against this reality we are taking a step back to stand by the people to fight with them this struggle for change, Hassan Diab explained.

He will have to continue to deal with current issues until President Michel Aoun, who has been very quiet since Monday, proposes a new head of government. A process, given the multi-denominational system that characterizes Lebanon and the necessary negotiations with Parliament, which can take a long time. “No prime minister, no government from the same political class will be able to carry out reform,” Nadim Houry, head of the Arab Reform Initiative, regrets. It is not a character problem but a system. The political class does not. Has not said its last word, but “What is clear is that it will fail. And we will lose another six months, a year, an unchanging time given the crisis in Lebanon, and we will not be any further ahead.”

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But time is running out. The Lebanese population is suffering from the drastic increase in the cost of living due to a historic depreciation of the Lebanese pound, hyperinflation and draconian banking restrictions, to which the Covid-19 epidemic has been added. Nearly 300,000 people, including 80,000 children, are now homeless after their homes were destroyed by the explosion, and the amount of damage caused could increase to $ 15 billion, according to the governor of Beirut. Reconstruction can take years.

More than half of Beirut’s hospitals, including three of the largest, are “out of order,” Richard Brennan, regional director of the World Health Organization (WHO), said on Wednesday.

“Political victims”

Overwhelmed, the protesters and part of the opposition demand the resignation of the entire ruling class, almost unchanged for decades, including prominent figures in place since the end of the 1990s civil war. ” who have proved that they do not want to let go, “said Sibylle Rizk, of the NGO Kulluna Irada, an activist for political reform in Lebanon.

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Hezbollah accuses Kataëb (Lebanese Phalanges) deputy Nadim Gemayel, who resigned with the other two elected members of parliament, after the August 4 explosion, of condemning the government’s negligence. The Shiite party, an ally of President Aoun, dominates Lebanese politics and helped form Hassan Diab’s government. “Hezbollah is largely responsible for the total imbalance that agitates Lebanon. It is he who makes the state’s big decision. (…) In return for having the country’s sovereignty, it provides its total coverage. [à la classe politique] to drive corruption, “he claims. For him, the future of Lebanon depends on a major political renewal,” or collapse is certain. We are not humanitarian victims, we are political victims. If we do not change our political problem, we will not be able to recover in the long run. “

A Lebanese army soldier walks among debris from the port of Beirut on August 7, 2020, three days after a massive explosion rocked the Lebanese capital there.
A Lebanese army soldier walks among debris from the port of Beirut on August 7, 2020, three days after a massive explosion rocked the Lebanese capital there. © Joseph Eid, AFP

Also accused by some Lebanese media and protesters of owning a weapons depot in the port of Beirut, where, according to authorities, stores 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, Hezbollah “categorically denied” and called to the “unity and solidarity” of the Lebanese.

Inertia of public authorities

The latter, who for a long time used to rely only on themselves, have cleared the rubble for a week and helped the poorest and those in need who face the inertia of the public authorities. Local and international NGOs have also been mobilized to provide medical assistance and food. According to independent MP Paula Yacoubian, who has also resigned, the government did not look after its citizens before her resignation and left responsibility for civil society and international donations. “After the disaster has shown who can really serve and lead this nation. It is among them that we should choose,” she said. at the New York Times.

For Sibylle Rizk, only popular pressure, which has already forfeited two governments – that of Saad Hariri in November 2019 and that of Hassan Diab – will be able to move the lines and form a credible alternative. “This anger, in order to turn into a political project, must be catalyzed by a new offer. For too long, the country has been exposed to foreign influence, the Lebanese are divided into the Community’s fault lines, they have been encouraged to be afraid of each other. exchange is created on the basis of links between the Lebanese. “