Days after a massive blast ripped through the city of Beirut, left at least 171 dead and thousands injured, Lebanon’s cabinet resigned on Monday, admitting widespread anger at action and governance weak reasons of the government.
However, members of the opposition – activists have long opposed a rifting political system with corruption and patronage, and people are furious at the government’s failures that many believe. that led to the deadly explosion – worrying that the move wasn’t enough to bring about real change.
Currently, the government has put itself in a caregiver state, with rescue and rehabilitation efforts still underway, critical infrastructure such as the country’s main hospital and port being destroyed, and hundreds of thousands of people were displaced.
So what happens next? This is the point.
A new government doesn’t mean election.
When Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced that the entire cabinet would resign on Monday night, he noted that the government would hold a managerial role until a new cabinet is appointed. But many are preparing for a long period of political paralysis during that time.
Mr. Diab himself, in his resignation speech, accused the political class of trying to blame the country’s ongoing economic crisis and corruption on his cabinet. Instead, he said, deep corruption had “originated in every part of the state.”
Currently, the old cabinet can continue to meet, but does not have the power to propose laws or issue decrees.
Under Lebanon’s current system, a new cabinet can be appointed by President Michel Aoun in consultation with Congress without the need for new elections. But the president has remained largely silent, so far only admitting resignations. And the horse trade in the sect’s Congress, the root system of many protesters’ complaints, is likely to be surprisingly slow.
Lina Khatib, head of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Britain’s Chatham House International Policy Institute, said pressure from protesters could hasten the creation of a new government, but that doesn’t necessarily make sense. is change will come.
“The important question is whether the new cabinet is just a version of the old one,” she said. While it is likely that the upcoming government will include cabinet seats for those outside the ruling class, it is unlikely that they will hold enough power to make real change.
“The current state of government is not ready to give up power completely,” she said.
Aid and rescue operations are underway.
Even before it exploded, an economic crisis in Lebanon pushed up commodity prices, leaving many facing the prospect of starvation.
At the moment, it is still unclear who will be responsible for the long-term restoration and reconstruction in Beirut, generally in the country. According to the governor of Beirut, with estimated losses of between $ 10 and $ 15 billion, the process could take years.
Basma Tabaja, deputy head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in Lebanon, said in a statement that nearly half of the city had suffered “significant damage” from the explosion.
“Nearly 300,000 people lost their homes and belongings in the blink of an eye,” she said. “There is a lot of grief for those who have died, and survivors now need tremendous support. Many have left life-changing wounds, and for others this blow to many other crises is too much to deal with on its own. “
But although international funds have pledged to help rebuild millions of dollars, and potential donors have stood by, many fear that dysfunction and corruption will hinder aid efforts. . So far, volunteer armies have been at the forefront of clearing street debris, sweeping debris and broken glass. Many have described that so far have received very little support from the authorities.
Dozens of people whose family members have gone missing since Tuesday’s blast also said they had received little support, including Elie Hasrouty, whose father Ghassan, was working at the port at the time explosion happened.
“The authorities delayed the launch of the search for the missing people in the Port Beirut’s wheat silos and then we received the unexpected news that the search for the survivors was over. don’t give us any proof of their fate, ”he wrote on Twitter. “It is enough to give up responsibility!”
The government’s resignation did little to avert the protests.
Protests continued to rage in the streets of Lebanon on Monday night, with activists saying their resignation did not meet their demand that the political elite must cede power.
Many believe that the resignation of the cabinet brought the country to a standstill that it faced last fall. In October, protests forced Prime Minister Saad Hariri to resign. He was not replaced by Mr. Diab until February.
But not much has changed in the head of the Lebanese government since then and also without the country’s most powerful politicians, many of whom have stood out in the brutal 15 civil war. year ended in 1990.
Many protests were planned for Tuesday night. But the root of the problem is a system built to balance power between rival religious and ethnic groups rather than to create an effective government, says Maha Yahya, director of the Central East Carnegie Center. based in Beirut, said. Another “national unity” government, which prioritizes representing all political parties, is likely to fail again, she said.
“The Cabinet never acts as a cohesive and coherent government,” said Yahya. “The international community should understand that this is one of the reasons why we are in our position.”
For confidence to recover, the government will have to include people who can inspire confidence in both the Lebanese people and the international community, she said.
What is next?
Members of the Lebanese parliament, whose chambers were damaged in the blast, are expected to meet again next Thursday, though a new government may not be over.
For now, many relief efforts in Beirut will continue to belong to NGOs, local volunteers and international aid groups. And while many hope for a future with a functioning government, the need for relief is immediate.
But the long-term future of the management system is now at stake, not just an immediate emergency response. And many believe that the country must look outside its leadership for real change.
Paula Yacoubian, an independent member of the Lebanese parliament who recently resigned, said that even when the government took full control, they did not care about their citizens, leaving most of the responsibility for civil society group and international donors, whom she calls for “real caregivers of the displaced and the injured after the disaster.”
“What we really need is very simple: a honest, independent government,” she said. “The aftermath of catastrophe shows us who can truly serve and lead this nation. We should choose from them ”.