There was an aftertaste of déjà vu, Friday, September 10, in Lebanon, and also a certain relief to end the distressing spectacle of the political haggling carried out despite the collapse of the country. Thirteen months after the resignation of Prime Minister Hassan Diab following the explosion at the port of Beirut on August 4, 2020, and after the two failed attempts by Mustapha Adib and Saad Hariri to form a government, the telecoms tycoon Najib Mikati presented his cabinet in the Baabda Palace, surrounded by the President, Michel Aoun, and the Head of Parliament, Nabih Berri. The Sunni billionaire from Tripoli, who takes the head of a government for the third time at 65, has not promised miracles. He only urged the political class to work hand in hand to implement a plan to end the crisis.
“The mountain gave birth to a mouse. We waited thirteen months to have a classic government, bland and insipid, which enshrines the sharing of posts and prebends between political factions. The Lebanese oligarchs have won again, with their well-worn technique of playing rottenness ”, comments Karim Bitar, director of the political science department of Saint Joseph University in Beirut. The same factions that have dominated political life since the end of the war in 1990, under accusations of corruption, mismanagement and patronage, shared the 24 ministerial portfolios, divided equally between Muslims and Christians. “We wonder where the French initiative went, which had promised us independent and reformist figures”, Mr Bitar continues.
The initiative led by President Emmanuel Macron in August 2020, and endorsed by the Lebanese parties, to form a “mission government” responsible for carrying out structural reforms in exchange for the payment of billions of dollars in aid from the international community, has given way, over the months, to the urgency to get out, at all costs, to institutional paralysis. The political deadlock has accentuated the financial and economic crisis. No alternative to the regime’s caciques has emerged. Deflection of the Lebanese pound (which has lost 90% of its value), hyperinflation, shortages of fuels and medicines, unemployment: the country has collapsed at an accelerated rate and more than 75% of the population now lives below the threshold of poverty, according to the United Nations.
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