Sat, 23 Jan 2021

by Dana Halawi

BEIRUT, Aug. 10 (Xinhua) -- Local analysts emphasized on Monday the need in Lebanon for an independent government formed by professionals following the resignation of Prime Minister Hassan Diab's cabinet earlier in the day.

Diab announced the cabinet's resignation following the huge explosions that smashed Beirut's port last Tuesday, killing 160 people at least, and wounding around 6,000 others.

The ruling political class then faced heavy criticism by the Lebanese people who accused the government of negligence and recklessness by storing a huge volume of ammonium nitrate at the port which may have caused the huge explosions.

Diab also attributed his resignation to widespread corruption in the country which prevented his government from adopting a proper roadmap while implementing necessary reforms to save Lebanon from its current crisis.

After the explosions, people took to the streets to protest against the cabinet and the whole ruling political class while demanding for a completely independent government capable of working in the interest of Lebanon in addition to early parliamentary elections.

Ibrahim Halawi, lecturer on Middle East politics at Royal Holloway, University of London, told Xinhua that an independent government with executive power should be formed, which would allow it to implement necessary reforms without being manipulated by sectarian leaders.

Halawi said that Lebanon should avoid the return of the status quo, and revive the state by allowing the new government to build the foundations for a civil state, starting with a rapid and comprehensive fiscal and accounting study of the state's losses and reserves, as well as a population census, which has not been done since 1932, the only country in the world that hasn't done a demographic study for this long.

"The census allows the government to re-establish its relationship with actual citizens, not with abstract sizes of sects, and the study allows it to make informed decisions on how to distribute the resources fairly and prepare for the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF)," Halawi said.

Meanwhile, Halawi stressed that early elections would only reproduce sectarian leaders' legitimacy, leading to limited seats for the independent opposition because the sectarian leaders have sustained their grip on society, distributed resources to their sects and created sect-based loyalties at the expense of citizen-driven politics.

"These same leaders have the authority to dictate the rules of elections, including the electoral law," he said.

Rajeh Khoury, a columnist of An-Nahar, a leading Arabic-language newspaper, told Xinhua that Lebanon needs a technocrat government that has nothing to do with political parties in Lebanon.

"This government would be given the power to implement short-term reforms to gain support after Port of Beirut's explosions, long-term reforms to attract support by the IMF to save the country's economy from collapse, and then come up with a new electoral law while launching early parliamentary elections," he said.

Khoury said that the new government would also deal with the repercussions of the explosions and manage donations from foreign countries.

Hilal Khashan, chair of the Political Studies Department at the American University of Beirut, told Xinhua that authorities should facilitate the formation of a new cabinet very soon to put the country back on track of reforms.

"The country is bankrupt. The new cabinet must be able to make decisions without placing any hurdles facing achievements ... there should be willingness and determination and lack of greed by the cabinet's members," Khashan said.

Lebanon has, in the past, witnessed multiples periods of political vacuum which weighted negatively on the country's economy.

It is currently facing the worst economic crisis in its history which necessitates the formation of a cabinet capable of implementing serious structural reforms.

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