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Offbeat Without a new government, will Lebanon continue its descent into hell?

19:15  28 september  2020
19:15  28 september  2020 Source:   lepoint.fr

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In Lebanon, paralyzed by a political blockage and faced with an unprecedented economic crisis, the formation of a new government awaited by the international community seems very distant. What future for the country and what repercussions?

After weeks of fruitless negotiations, Prime Minister-designate Moustapha Adib returned his apron on Saturday. A return to square one for a Lebanon from which the international community calls for urgent reforms before releasing any financial aid.

This assistance is all the more crucial since the gigantic explosion of August 4 at the port of Beirut aggravated a disastrous socio-economic situation. In this context, is a way out of the crisis possible?

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What timeframe for a new government?

After the tragedy at the port (more than 190 dead and 6,500 wounded) which led to the resignation of the government of Hassan Diab, French President Emmanuel Macron went to Beirut twice.

At the beginning of September, he had assured to have obtained guarantees from politicians shouted at by the street on the formation, within two weeks, of a government of "independent".

A missed deadline, in a multi-faith country accustomed to long haggling between parties which have dominated the political scene for decades.

After the resignation of Mr. Adib, Mr. Macron on Sunday warned the Lebanese political class that it still had "four to six weeks" to form a government. "It is now up to Lebanese officials to seize this last chance."

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President Michel Aoun must now relaunch binding parliamentary consultations to appoint a personality responsible for forming a government.

"It will take time," summarizes Maha Yahya, director of the Carnegie-Middle East center.

"In the meantime, we find ourselves with a government of current affairs which cannot take decisions and especially not negotiate an economic rescue plan with the International Monetary Fund."

- What about Hezbollah?

Mr. Adib's efforts were largely obstructed by two Shiite parties, the powerful armed movement Hezbollah, which dominates Lebanese politics, and its ally Amal, determined to keep the finance ministry.

Mr. Macron has been very virulent vis-à-vis Hezbollah, abandoning the conciliatory tone of recent weeks. Hezbollah "must not think it is stronger than it is".

Iran, which finances and arms Hezbollah, has assured to be in contact with Paris and to support French efforts if they are "well intentioned", citing contacts with Lebanese groups to help "solve the problem".

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Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is due to speak on Tuesday.

- Humanitarian aid?

With or without a government, France will organize with the UN a new aid conference for Lebanon, by the end of October, after having raised 250 million euros on August 9 with its partners.

Humanitarian assistance will go directly to the population, "through non-governmental organizations on the ground and United Nations agencies alone," Macron reiterated.

Because after the explosion, the political leaders, accused of profiting for decades from endemic corruption, were castigated for their passivity.

Mr. Macron is also planning an international meeting in the coming weeks to discuss the reform agenda and the conditions set by the international community to release billions of dollars in aid.

"The first (condition) will be to demand that the results of the investigation into the causes of the August 4 explosion be finally established and made public, and that those responsible be designated," he said.

- Go simple for "hell"?

Mr. Aoun, an ally of Hezbollah, warned last week that, without a government, Lebanon was heading towards "hell".

For a year, the Lebanese pound has experienced an unprecedented depreciation and the Lebanese no longer have free access to their savings because of draconian banking restrictions.

The crisis has led to massive layoffs and wage cuts. More than half of Lebanese now live in poverty, according to official statistics.

In this context, difficult to be optimistic.

"Failing to go to hell, we will witness (...) a weakening of all public institutions and a worsening of the economic crisis", forecasts political scientist Karim Bitar.

The expert expects a wave of emigration which would deprive the country "of its working population and its middle class".

"Lebanon could end up with an oligarchy that clings to power and the impoverishment of those who remain."

28/09/2020 15:29:18 - Beirut (AFP) - © 2020 AFP

An evening to support Lebanon Thursday on France 2 and France Inter, with a concert at the Olympia .
A concert at the Olympia for the benefit of the Lebanese Red Cross, reports, interviews: France 2 and France Inter broadcast Thursday October 1 a special evening to support Lebanon, after the explosion that ravaged Beirut on August 4. © Provided by Franceinfo France 2 and France Inter broadcast Thursday, October 1 "All united for Lebanon", a special evening around a big live concert, in support of this country which is struggling to recover from the explosions that ravaged Beirut this summer.

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