BEIRUT | The resignation of the government in Lebanon in crisis Tuesday opens the phase of bargaining and questions to designate the succession, in a country where anger is brewing a week after the deadly and devastating explosion at the port of Beirut.
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The tragedy of August 4 came to fuel the rage of public opinion, still reeling from the explosion which killed 160 people and left 6,000 injured, in a city where entire neighborhoods are nothing but fields of tottering ruins.
Since the fall of 2019, the country was already in the grip of an unprecedented popular uprising, which had seen hundreds of thousands of Lebanese pounding the pavement to denounce the economic difficulties which have only worsened, and the entirety of a political class almost unchanged for decades, accused of corruption and incompetence.
To appease the streets after the explosion, the catastrophe too much for a nation in crisis, the Hassan Diab government tendered its resignation on Monday. But a week to the day after the tragedy, the Lebanese demand that those responsible for the tragedy be brought to justice, demanding accountability for the state’s negligence.
“The Republic is crumbling” headlines the French daily L’Orient-Le jour on Tuesday.
“The apocalypse of August 4 was the hardest and most severe manifestation of the dysfunction of institutions and the state apparatus,” said the newspaper in its editorial.
Appointed at the end of January, the government of Hassan Diab (a university professor new to politics who boasted of leading a team of technocrats) had been formed by a single political camp, that of the Shiite movement of Hezbollah and its allies.
The government will take over the day-to-day business until a new team is appointed.
Mr. Diab had been criticized for several months for his inability to respond to the economic crisis, a historic depreciation of the Lebanese pound, fuel shortages and hyperinflation. On Monday, he also lambasted the traditional political class that he accused of being responsible for its failures.
The big question of the day remains the succession of Mr. Diab, in a country accustomed to endless negotiations between the political forces, who spend several months negotiating the wallets before appointing a government.
It remains to be seen whether this time the scale of the cataclysm will push them to show speed.
There is also the involvement of the international community, in particular France, mobilized to provide emergency aid to the Lebanese, but which insists that this funding reach the beneficiaries directly.
Citing political sources, the daily Al-Akhbar, close to Hezbollah, assures that Washington and Riyadh but also Paris are pushing for the appointment of former ambassador Nawaf Salam at the head of a “neutral government”
This seasoned diplomat, who had represented his country at the UN, had notably been a judge at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
The position of influential Hezbollah and that of its ally, the head of Parliament Nabih Berri, has not yet been revealed, the daily said.
In the street, the current political negotiations leave the exhausted Lebanese almost indifferent. A week after the tragedy, they are still in the devastated districts of Beirut clearing the rubble themselves, lambasting the inertia of the public authorities.
“No more bread”
At the origin of the gigantic explosion on August 4: a fire in a warehouse where 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate had been stored for six years, a dangerous chemical substance without “precautionary measures” as admitted by Mr. Diab. .
The explosion razed the port. And in a country hit for several months by an economic collapse, the tragedy raises fears of food insecurity.
About “85% of the food of Lebanon is imported, and it passes through this port,” recalled Monday the director of the World Food Program (WFP), David Beasley, currently traveling in Lebanon.
He was speaking from the port, where a cargo plane unloaded generators, cranes and what to make temporary warehouses. The objective: to restore certain services “within two weeks” to ensure the country’s food supply.
“At this point, the Lebanese will have no more bread within two weeks, so it is essential to launch these operations,” said Beasley.
The investigation continues and about twenty people have been arrested, officials, officials and engineers from the port and the Customs Administration. On Monday, the prosecutor questioned the head of the state security apparatus for several hours.