Lebanon’s future as an inclusive democracy in doubt


The latest violence in Lebanon, coming shortly before the anniversary of protests that brought down the government, does not bode well for economic and political reforms.

Tripoli, Lebanon on 1/31/2021 © Zwein Florient / Shutterstock

By Jean AbiNader

In Lebanon, October 17 marked the anniversary of the 2019 demonstrations against the government due to its mismanagement of the economy and widespread corruption. After two years, despite the fall of the government led by Prime Minister Hassan Diab, there has been no investigation into the charges of corruption or capital flight that occurred, accelerating the implosion of the local currency and the subsequent tanking of the banking sector.

Beirushima: What Lebanon Needs to Survive

The interlocking political and banking elites who control the government based on sectarian power-sharing have so far ignored the pain of those affected and the need to have a national strategy of reconciliation and economic recovery. The economic erosion was furthered by the Beirut Port explosion of August 4, 2020. That incident destroyed much of the business area of the downtown. It also further set back the country economically and politically as the current government, headed by Prime Minister Najib Mikati, has been unable to remove impediments to an independent investigation.

The people of Lebanon are suffering. The statistics on poverty, loss of education and quality of life, hyperinflation of essential goods, cost of living and health care, and emigration of skilled Lebanese are well known. The security and stability of the country are eroding as the families of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and Internal Security Forces (ISF) share the depressing costs of a barely functioning economy.

The Governing Troika

The latest threats and violence demonstrate the fragility of the civil order as the Shia Amal-Hezbollah alliance, along with their Christian enablers in President Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement — now headed by his son-in-law and presidential aspirant, Gebran Bassil — feel free to ignore demands for change. The march on October 14, 2021, demanding the removal of Judge Tarek Bitar, who was calling current and former officials to testify about their roles in the Beirut Port blast, was the latest opportunity to demonstrate their dominance. This was too much of a provocation for those opposed to the governing troika, which led to bloodshed and a spike in instability. Despite the current calm, that chapter has not been concluded.

More damaging is the challenge that inaction poses on two fronts: to the new government and to the security services. Prime Minister Mikati supports an independent judiciary and an independent investigation into the blast. This could lead to the dissolution of his government, which depends on an agreement with the troika to survive. Hezbollah and company have not shown any concern for the integrity of the state up until now, so there are no assurances that they will tolerate an investigation that might expose some of their own friends.

The LAF and ISF are already struggling to hold together their forces, who have experienced a 90% drop in their salaries while facing hyperinflation in food, medicines and fuel. Desertion rates are increasing as soldiers look for other employment opportunities. With budgets decreased by 90% due to the currency devaluation, the LAF and ISF have to increasingly rely on external assistance from the United States and others to retain their operational readiness.

Time for Action

All the while, the people are on the sidelines, not able to promote changes that will improve their lives and save their country. At the core is the concern that Lebanon for the Lebanese may become an aspiration more than a reality. To avoid the demise of what was once the educational and intellectual center of the region, it is time for remedial action.

It is time to begin the process of negotiations with the International Monetary Fund and move toward a single exchange rate by reducing subsidies and public spending. Work must be done to ensure increased stable power supplies throughout Lebanon. The people’s trust needs to be earned through transparent and credible policies to restore a functioning government.

The international community is clear in its position: Clean elections, implementation of basic reforms, and a robust and sustainable social safety net are central to opening the country to outside support. Only then can Lebanon begin the process of reconstruction and recovery. Now, as the people remember the October 17 demonstrations, it is time to recommit to a process of reform and reconciliation that will provide a basis for Lebanon’s reconstruction.




15 responses to “Lebanon’s future as an inclusive democracy in doubt”

  1. Lebanon
    The Lebanese parliament has confirmed:
    Elections in Lebanon on March 27, 2022
    The election campaign has already begun

  2. Lebanon – Israel

    Amos Hochstein, the envoy of the Biden administration, landed today in Beirut at the head of an American delegation that will deal with advancing negotiations on the registration of the borders between Israel and Lebanon.
    Hezbollah-affiliated Lebanese officials portray Hochstein as an “Israeli mediator” between Israel and Lebanon and not as an American mediator, due to the fact that Hochstein, according to them, is an Israeli who served in the IDF and is therefore not a fair mediator

    1. Amos Hochstein, the American representative for the talks on the registration of the borders between Israel and Lebanon, met this morning with the President of Lebanon, Michel Aoun https://t.me/abualiexpress/31611

      1. Amos Hochstein, the envoy of the Biden administration, also met today with Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Speaker of Parliament Nabia Berry.
        Earlier today he met with President Aoun.
        As one of Hezbollah’s supporters said: This is not the first visit to Lebanon by Hochstein, “the Israeli soldier” … (alluding to his military service ..)

  3. New government won’t save Lebanon from old problems

    1. Lebanon’s recent appointment of a new prime minister after more than a year of political uncertainty has brought a timid glimmer of hope to a country heading into the abyss after a massive financial collapse, a chemical explosion that destroyed half of the Lebanese capital, and widespread disaffection among citizens stranded in poverty. Finally, a government appeared in the country capable of implementing reforms, which in turn would launch international assistance mechanisms to overcome crises

      1. But the hope was short-lived. Lebanon first plunged into darkness for 24 hours when the power plants ran out of fuel. Then there were armed clashes between Hezbollah supporters and Christian Lebanese forces. Any hope of a turn for the better has evaporated, and Lebanon appears to be plunged into a new and potentially deeper crisis

        1. “I don’t think anyone in Lebanon wants a new civil war,” Professor Eyal Zisser, the pro-rector of Tel Aviv University, who specializes in the history and modern politics of Lebanon, said in an interview with Details. “But the result is chaos, tension, which is only aggravated by the fact that armed militias are walking the streets, ready to clash with each other at any moment”

          1. Backed by Iran, Hezbollah remains the country’s most powerful political and military force, a faction with a well-armed militia and huge reserves of weapons, making it more combat-ready than the Lebanese army. Hasan Nasrallah did not fail to announce that he “has 100,000 trained and trained fighters” and his party “has never been as strong as it is now.” A senior Hezbollah leader who attended the funeral of two of the six members of the group killed in the clash, vowed that their blood was not spilled “in vain”, hinting at revenge

          2. The flare-up of the conflict has raised fears that escalating civil and sectarian strife will indefinitely postpone the resolution of many other problems facing the country – from a shortage of fuel for power plants to a fall in the value of the currency, which undermined the finances of even the once relatively wealthy citizens of Lebanon

          3. “This is the so-called cosmetic government, which does not want and cannot solve the critical problems of the country,” says Professor Zisser. – These are all the same political parties, all the same corrupt elites, they are part of the problem, not its solution.

            Take Prime Minister Najib Mikati. He comes from a very wealthy and influential family from the Lebanese Tripoli. Lebanese politics, like the mafia, revolves around families and clans. These clans are engaged in business, gather armed detachments around them, and when the opportunity arises, they send their representative to parliament or government to represent the interests of the family. Such is also Mikati, who was already prime minister in 2005 and then in 2011-2013. He may be smart, probably well connected, like his predecessor Saad Hariri, but will that change anything in the situation in which Lebanon finds itself? Of course not. The goal of these politicians is to preserve the system as much as possible in the form in which it has existed for years”

          4. The most important unresolved issue for the new government remains the investigation of last year’s explosion in the port of Beirut, which was the reason for the recent unrest. Hezbollah insists on the removal of Judge Taarek Bitar, who summoned the minister from the Amal party, which is close to Hezbollah, for questioning. Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Najib Mikati support the continued investigation led by Bitar. Their ability to provide transparent and honest investigations may affect not only the reputation of the new government within the country, but also relations with the international community and financial institutions, on whose help Lebanon depends. However, the conflict with “Hezbollah”, which has a serious political weight, will make even the “cosmetic” steps necessary to overcome the crisis impossible

          5. At the same time, even an investigation that could point to Hezbollah as the main culprit in the Beirut port bombing is unlikely to seriously undermine its position domestically. “Whatever happens, the Shiites will support Hezbollah, the rest, as before, will be against it,” Zisser said. – Investigation? Don’t forget that an international tribunal recently accused Hezbollah of killing Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Did it affect anything? Not that much. For Hezbollah, all these are annoying incidents, but nothing more”

          6. Meanwhile, parliamentary elections are scheduled for March 27 – and this only contributes to the persistence of tensions, analysts say. It is in the interest of both Hezbollah and other Lebanese forces to foster sectoral division among the Lebanese and remains an essential tool for mobilizing voters. “Politicians are using the confessional card to stay in power,” says Eyal Zisser. “As long as this is so, nothing will change dramatically in Lebanon”

            Alexandra Appelberg https://detaly.co.il/novoe-pravitelstvo-ne-spaset-livan-ot-staryh-problem/

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