The political situation in Lebanon is not good. Prime minister-designate Saad Hariri is unable to form a cabinet due to a clash in political views with president Michel Aoun. Hariri wishes to structure a non-partisan government, while Aoun wants Lebanon’s political parties to be represented.
Prime minister vs president vs speaker of parliament
Hariri and Aoun blame each other for the obstruction. According to Hariri, he has met the Maronite Christian president 12 times to discuss the formation of the government and handed him a list of names to be assigned as ministers. A presidential statement replied that “Aoun objected to Hariri’s uniqueness in naming ministers, especially Christians, without agreeing with the president”.
Speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, blames both parties, saying “Why this blockage? The answer certainly lies with the president and prime minister-designate”. Berri hopes that French president Emmanuel Macron will be able to mend the situation on the long term.
“The Lebanese are in complete denial as they sink”
The international community has insisted that the political class should set aside their divisions and help create an independent government to reform and improve Lebanon’s economic and political crisis. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drain stated that “Lebanon is the Titanic without the orchestra”, adding “the Lebanese are in complete denial as they sink, and there isn’t even the music.”
Four prime ministers in one year
It has been a challenging year for Lebanon. In 12 months, the country saw a total of four (designate) prime ministers. At the end of 2019, Hariri resigned from his second term as prime minister when protesters demanded an overhaul of the complete political class due to corruption and a deteriorating economic situation. Hasan Diab took over in the beginning of 2020, but had to step down when a massive explosion struck Beirut on 4 August because of negligence from the government storing ammonium nitrate, leaving over 200 dead, more than 6000 injured and 300 thousand homeless. On 31 August, Mustapha Adib had been chosen in parliament to become the new prime minister. However, Adib had to step down when he was not able to form a cabinet, mainly due to Shia parties not wanting to accept a fully technocratic government. Now, back at square one, Saad Hariri was rechosen to become prime minister, for the third time, and intended to form a non-partisan cabinet. Nonetheless, this time it is the Christian parties putting it to a stop.
Lebanese politics: balance, sects and corruption
Lebanon is a sectarian democracy, based on a balanced division of powers between the country’s most prominent sects. This translates into the president being a Maronite Christian, the speaker of parliament a Shia Muslim and the prime minister a Sunni Muslim. In addition, the parliamentary seats are divided between a total of 18 recognised religious communities. Many Lebanese reject this system because it has proven itself to be unproductive and rigid. Over the years, corruption in the ruling class has increased and the economy has deteriorated dramatically. This in combination with the Beirut explosion due to governmental negligence, made a big part of the population detest the political elite. They now want a political system based on skills and devotion to the people, rather than sect and political affiliation.