First modification: 07/19/2021 – 19:51
Consultations for the formation of a new Executive in Lebanon will begin on July 26, after the designated candidate, Saad Hariri, submitted his resignation. The country has been without a fully functioning executive since August 2020, after the explosion in the port of Beirut. A political blockade that accentuates the deep economic and social depression of the country, aggravated by the pandemic. The structural roots of the crisis have been answered in the streets of the country since 2019.
On July 26, a new political stage could begin in Lebanon or the government blockade could be perpetuated. After eight months of failed attempts, the prime minister appointed to form a government, Saad Hariri, abandoned his mandate to lead, once again, a country plunged into a spiral of crisis. According to Hariri, the decision responds to the rejection of his latest executive proposal by President Michel Aoun.
“It is evident that we are not going to be able to agree with the president. During the conversation I asked him if he needed more time to think about the team. He told me that we could not agree, so I resigned to form the Government. May God help the country, ”Hariri declared in his resignation speech, according to the translation quoted by the newspaper El País.
Hariri’s withdrawal from the race for prime minister on July 15 opened the door to a new round of parliamentary consultations to reach the formation of a cabinet, without any winning alternative being outlined at the moment. According to different analysts, the approach of parliamentary elections scheduled for 2022 may dissuade several candidates. A rebalancing of forces in the legislature could mean that an executive with parliamentary support today is frustrated after the reconfiguration of the chamber.
What is clear is that, according to the Lebanese denominational quota system, the post of prime minister must be held by a Sunni Muslim leader, the country’s president must be a Christian and the speaker of the Shiite Muslim parliament.
Economic crisis and popular discontent unleashed in 2019
Hariri’s resignation sparked protests in the Sunni neighborhoods of Beirut, where the army was deployed. Hariri was the Sunni political figure with the most popular support, which is why he was commissioned to form a government in October 2020, despite having resigned from office a few months earlier. Hariri served as Prime Minister for two terms: between 2009-2011 and 2016-2019, when he resigned in response to massive protests, sparked by a tax hike, but rooted in general dissatisfaction with the political management of the country.
In January 2020, he was replaced by Hassan Diab, who resigned in August 2020, following the explosion at the Beirut port that caused nearly 200 deaths and millions of dollars worth of property damage. Since then, Lebanon has not had a fully functioning executive, and in fact, Diab is still officially acting prime minister.
The Lebanese political blockade accentuates the economic and social crisis in the country. A scenario described by the world Bank as “among the top 10, possibly the top 3, most serious crisis episodes worldwide since the mid-19th century.”
A depression that the economic institution attributes to the fact that: in the face of the country’s greatest financial crisis in peacetime, the Covid-19 pandemic and the damage caused by the explosion in the port of the capital “the continued inaction of policies and the absence of a fully functioning executive authority threatens already extreme socio-economic conditions and a fragile social peace with no clear tipping point on the horizon ”.
On the other hand, the World Bank diagnoses that the inadequacy of the political response to the country’s challenges is not due to a lack of knowledge to manage the situation, but rather to two other factors. On the one hand, to the “lack of political consensus on effective political initiatives” and on the other hand to a “political consensus in defense of a bankrupt economic system, which benefited a few for a long time.”
The contraction of the country’s GDP is only comparable to that of countries in conflict or at war, estimates the World Bank, which warns that half of the population lives below the poverty line and that the working class suffers a drastic loss of power. purchasing power: since 2019 the value of the Lebanese pound has fallen by 95%. On the other hand, highly qualified youth leave the country in search of opportunities abroad.
In this context, the European Union pressures and threatens the country with sanctions and with the interruption of economic aid until political reforms begin to end systemic corruption and the economic and social crisis.