Lebanon faces challenges forming government, fears situation may explode

Sarah El-Sheikh
12 Min Read

Intransigence has become the master of the situation in Lebanon, with a general feeling prevalent that no one cares about the future, hopes, or aspirations of the country’s citizens.

Lebanese politicians have managed to alienate the country, either as a result of their alliance with the arms party, or as a result of settlements tied to special interests, or because of weakness.

Lebanon has reached its lowest ebb, and is today witnessing “complete darkness”, both metaphorically and literally, as electricity cuts affect the country for as long as 22 hours a day. No one is stepping up to their responsibilities in forming a rescue government to help the country navigate its way back to at least reasonable stability.

The Future Movement accuses the Free Patriotic Movement, led by Gebran Bassil, of putting obstacles in the way of attempts to form the new government headed by Saad Hariri. 

It has sparked a wave of anger and resentment, especially since the National Movement had warned Hariri against marginalising President Michel Aoun and other parliamentary blocs in the negotiations regarding the government’s formation. 

Lebanon’s Future Movement has accused the Free Patriotic Movement, led by Bassil, of putting obstacles in the way of attempts to form the new government headed by Hariri.

It has sparked a wave of anger and resentment, especially since the National Movement had warned Hariri against marginalising President Michel Aoun and other parliamentary blocs in the negotiations to form the government.

The Free Patriotic Movement announced, at the conclusion of its political bureau meeting headed by Bassil, that Prime Minister-designate Hariri must return to the constitutional principles that he had previously adopted in forming each government. This is because it is the only way to form any government

The party also said that it would not participate in the new government, nor would it give its confidence to the House of Representatives on the grounds presented by Hariri. It also refuses to give the prime minister-designate and his team a half plus one in the government, because they fear he will use it to prevent reform and obstruct scrutiny of the accounts of the Central Bank of Lebanon. They also fear he may attempt to put a brake on all attempts to fight corruption.

The Free Patriotic Movement considers that there are internal and external reasons preventing Hariri from forming the new government.

They accuse the prime minister as being in charge of “camouflaging these reasons by fabricating flimsy arguments, and that he decided to fabricate a crisis with the President of the Republic and the political team supporting him and fabricated the problem of the obstructing one-third, and that he clings to a government of 18 ministers to the exclusion of two main sects, the Catholic and the Druze.”

For its part, the Future Movement’s political bureau says that Bassil “insists on solidifying the government crisis and wrapping it with conditions that tamper with the sectarian tendency and the rights of Christians.” 

It indicates that Bassil wants to circumvent the French rescue initiative, which stipulates the formation of a government of non-partisan specialists.

The Future Movement responded by accusing the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, Bassil, of playing on sectarian incitement, while forgetting that the agreed criteria for forming this government should be made up of non-partisan specialists.

Its statement said that Bassil was inventing a “new bogeyman” called “half plus one”, by jumping from one standard to another to reach the obstructed third.

The statement emphasised that Hariri will not give up the rules that he adopted to form the government, which are complementary with the French initiative. It noted that a government will be formed from non-partisans and those with competence, integrity, and specialisation.

The Future Movement said, “Bassil deliberately plays on the edge of sectarian incitement, and jumps from one criterion to another, to ensure that the obstructed third is reached, and invent for the Lebanese public opinion a new argument called half plus one for the appointed prime minister.”

It also said, “There are those who consider cheating, lying, and fraud as special skills for some people, but the use of these skills in political work and in light of economic and living risks is classified under the category of national crimes. And this is, unfortunately, the case of the Lebanese with MP Gebran Bassil, who says that he refuses to participate.”

The Future Movement affirmed that the formation of a government will be free from the obstructing third of any party, to stop the collapse that Lebanon is suffering from. 

It will also renew the confidence of the Arab and international communities in Lebanon’s role and mission. 

This comes while the anger on the Lebanese street continues, which has witnessed further protests in recent weeks. Protesters who gathered near the Republican Palace issued a statement calling for the president to resign, and for Hariri to apologise for forming the government.

Protesters raised slogans calling for a transitional government, stressing demands including achieving justice, accountability for the corruption, and the resignation of the three presidencies. This is in addition to the demand to open a file on the culprit behind the import into the country of the ammonium nitrate that caused the Beirut Port explosion in August 2020.

There is a continuous diplomatic movement in Lebanon, as the Saudi ambassador to Lebanon Walid Al-Bukhari said that there is a joint responsibility to preserve the Arab identity of Lebanon, referring to Iranian interference.

Any new Lebanese government that does not act according to the conditions put forward by Iran and its representatives in the country will not be born. 

What does the Lebanese press say?

Youssef Diab, a writer and political analyst, believes that the political scene in Lebanon suffers from uncertainty.

He indicated that there are sharp divisions within the ranks of the political leadership, considering that the fate of Lebanon’s citizens has become dependent on the hope of salvation, which comes from the outside and not from within.

Several Lebanese newspapers reported, on Saturday, that the existing data regarding the formation of the new government has not changed, as no signs have emerged so far that suggest the possibility of a breakthrough leading to the formation of the new government.

This comes in light of the wide rift and gap between President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, in a way that makes it difficult to easily finish the governmental authoring process.

The Al-Nahar, Al-Gomhoria, Nidaa Al-Watan, Al-Akhbar, Al-Liwa and Al-Sharq newspapers reported that Hariri adheres to his government proposal based on forming a mini-government of 18 independent ministers, or experts. 

He unapologetically and categorically refuses for it to contain a “suspended ministerial third” in exchange for President Aoun and his Free Patriotic Movement political team’s clear desire to get rid of Hariri and the need to search for another prime minister.

The newspapers indicated that Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri is renewing his efforts to create a momentum with which to overcome differences and overcome obstacles to forming the new government.

This is in accordance with the principles of Hariri’s presidency of the new government, taking into account the concerns of the parties. It would, at the same time, avoid obstructing the designation of one-third of the parliamentary seats for Aoun’s party, whilst adhering to non-partisan ministers and that it should be made up of competent, experienced participants. 

On the other hand, most Lebanese newspapers confirmed that Iran is an essential part of the process of obstructing the formation of the new Lebanese government. 

The country’s media also notes the statement made by the Assistant Speaker of the Shura Council, Hussein Amir Abd Al-Lahyan, accusing the US, France, and Saudi Arabia of adopting the policy of “not having a strong government in Lebanon”. 

This would be designed at weakening Hezbollah, and “reveals the Iranian role in obstructing the formation of the Lebanese government.”

It also shows that the Iranian statement clearly reflects Tehran’s desire to hijack the initiative to save Lebanon that was previously proposed by France, and to prevent the implementation of its provisions.

It aims to prevent the formation of a specialised government over which Hezbollah does not have political control, pointing out that the party is working seriously to torpedo the French initiative and is behind the aggravation of differences between the President Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Hariri, in order to achieve his goal of reaching a settlement that would overthrow the French initiative.

Economic crisis 

Amid the high fuel prices in Lebanon, and in light of the harsh rationing of electricity, the country is approaching complete darkness. Economist Sami Nader pointed to “the difficulty of securing the Internet and communications in the next stage.”

He said, “Purchasing power has decreased dramatically, and there is an obscene price increase, in addition to Lebanon going into darkness.

Nader also pointed out, ”Electricity rationing is constantly increasing because the EDL has not received the full loan, that is, part of the BDL’s reserves.”

He stressed, “The generators’ bills will be a high cost since the owners of these generators come with unsupported diesel, and thus the Lebanese will face harsh days and it will be difficult for them to secure money.”

Nader pointed out, “A safe life and the provision of services at a minimum, such as electricity, phones, the Internet, etc., will be impossible with the passage of Time, and with no government to put an end to the collapse.” 

He pointed out that “parents will not be able to pay the tuition fees for schools and universities, and this is sad as Lebanon loses its advantage in education.

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