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Looking to Lebanon’s Future Amidst Uncertainty

Residents clean the rubble of houses destroyed by ammonium nitrate explosion in Beirut, Lebanon

BEIRUT – Lebanese Prime Minister (PM) Hassan Diab resigned from his post yesterday. This setback was inseparable from the high public pressure on the government after the great explosion at the Port of Beirut.

“Today (Monday local time), we will join the people to drag those responsible behind the blast in Beirut,” said Diab, quoted by Reuters. “Corruption has taken root down to small regional officials and I am aware that corruption is damaging to the country and detrimental to the people.”

Diab’s decline made Lebanon’s political situation even more complicated. This is because Diab is one of the major figures of local religious organizations and is the person who presses negotiations on borrowing funds from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Lebanese President Michel Aoun accepted Diab’s decline with grace. However, he asked Diab to become the acting PM before the new government was formed. Diab was appointed PM since last January after getting strong support from the Hezbollah group and its allies.

As of yesterday, some Lebanese people were still holding rallies for the third day in Beirut. They clashed with police after several protesters threw stones at officers. The police also fired tear gas as a form of resistance.

Most of the Lebanese people consider the explosion in Beirut to be the result of corruption and the government’s incompetence in managing the country. They urged the current government to step down and be replaced by a new leader who the people could trust. Besides, the system needs to be changed.

“The reason is, it’s useless to have a new leader if the system is still the same. We need to hold a general election,” said Joe Haddad, a local resident. According to current government regulations, Diab’s position can also be replaced immediately after Aoun obtains approval from Parliament.

However, considering the current conditions, changing the cabinet may take a long time. Because, just like when Diab was appointed PM, no one wanted to occupy that position. This is because most of the candidates are afraid of becoming the butt of the masses considering the bad situation.

Since the 1975-1990 civil war, Lebanon’s leadership has been occupied by war and military commanders. Most of them are invincible considering the existence of a system of sharing the “share” of power and election rules that support the continuity of their political careers.

Some Lebanese people fiercely oppose the political system and have fought several times by taking up arms, including the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri some 15 years ago. Recently, people have also held demonstrations during the economic crisis and the food crisis.

Fawaz Gerges, professor of Middle East politics at the London School of Economics, said the interests of Lebanese politicians are deeply rooted in the Lebanese system of government. “I myself am pessimistic that the political elite within the Lebanese institutions will change,” said Fawaz.

However, some say they are optimistic that Lebanon will change. This is because the explosion in Beirut exposed the negligence of the government and opened people’s eyes even more. Decisions against society will cause government power to collapse by itself.

In fact, at this time, the Lebanese people expressed their anger in various media. Most of them blame the government for failing to store 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate for six years without adequate security protection. They even had their leader hanged to death.

As a country that has a long history with France, French President Emmanuel Macron has visited the site of the explosion in Beirur, Lebanon. There, he met local people who asked France to release them from the current government.

“I am here to provide food and medical aid. We will make sure this aid reaches the people affected by the explosion,” Macron said. “However, we do not deny that Lebanon needs to build a new political system to advance Lebanon and carry out reforms in various sectors,” he added.

The scale of the devastation that befell Lebanon put PM Hassan Diab’s political career at stake. He is now forming an investigative committee to find out what caused the explosion.

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