The political infighting between the Lebanese Prime Minister Designate Saad Hariri and President Michel Aoun reaches its highest whilst the people suffer. Are there no ends to this?
It’s been nearly a year since Lebanon, once the crown jewel of the Middle-East now a country struggling with imminent economic collapse, has been left on its own. Lebanese top-ranking politicians such as President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Designate Saad Hariri have been unable to set aside their differences and form a fully functional government capable of governing the country. After reportedly meeting with each other for the eighteenth time since his election in October, Hariri and Aoun have both resorted to petty smear tactics, trying to buy themselves enough public support so as to force the other guy to stand down.
Democracies such as Lebanon are always prone to political paralysis as such. As an inherent quality, or perhaps a flaw depending on your perspective, no effective government shall be formed; a situation not so dissimilar from what’s been happening in Israel for these past two years. To make matters worse, Lebanon itself had been entangled in such a predicament not long ago, more specifically around 2016 when the country was left without a president for more than two years. Unfortunately, the current Lebanon caretakers face a much greater challenge ahead of themselves, all thanks to a crumbling economy that could collapse at any moment.
According to numerous reports, just in 2020 Lebanon lost more than 80 percent of its local currency, quadrupling all basic commodities and plunging more than half the population into relative poverty. This undesirable predicament was further exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and of course the great explosion of the Beirut harbour which laid waste to one of the most important commercial ports in the whole area. Adding to the mix all the lives destroyed and jobs lost along with a covetous desire expressed by an old colonizer to influence Lebanon to a much greater degree and there you have a volatile explosive compound ready to explode at any given moment.
As far as the predictions go, it is highly unlikely either side of the conflict will give in to the other’s demands. Just this past Saturday, Prime Minister Designate Hariri announced that he would not cater his cabinet to accommodate Aoun’s wishes. Hariri’s political party, the New Movement, has also announced that Aoun and his supporters seek “a government based on quotas” which would grant them “veto powers” should the time comes. On the other side of the argument, President Aoun and his Free Patriotic Movement Party claim that Hariri and his team have taken Lebanon and its people “hostage”, willing to take everything with them into the “abyss” should their rivals refuse to bow down to their demands.
Although numerous international organisations such as the IMF and others have promised Lebanon to support its economic recovery in the upcoming years, they nevertheless demanded the formation of a stable government as a precondition for aid to arrive. People like the French President Emmanuel Macron, who might be pursuing his own ulterior agenda in Lebanon, too have conditioned their humanitarian aid on structural and economic reforms. When his call went unanswered however, France resorted to impose travel restrictions on Lebanese government officials regardless of their political affiliation. Thereby it is hard to picture an outcome which Lebanon might survive unscathed should it concede to their demands.
At any rate, the political squabble between Lebanese politicians seems to be the biggest obstacle on the country’s path to recovery. Amidst this chaos, neither side is willing to get help from other prominent political factions such as Hezbollah, out of the fear that it might compromise their position in the eyes of the western communities. As a direct result, Lebanon is at an impasse without a clear path forward. Unfortunately, at times like these, people are the only victims of such infightings and therefore more prone and susceptible to be influenced by outside parties. It is perhaps high time for Aoun and Hariri to ask themselves whether the thirst for power is worth it or not.