'He was a puppet': Lebanese react to Diab’s resignation

Protests have shaken Lebanon since last October as thousands have taken to the streets calling for the complete replacement of Lebanon’s political class

  
Lebanon's Prime Minister Hassan Diab is pictured at the government palace in Beirut, Lebanon, August 10, 2020.

Lebanon's Prime Minister Hassan Diab is pictured at the government palace in Beirut, Lebanon, August 10, 2020.

Reuters/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT: A day after Hassan Diab announced the resignation of his government, many weary Lebanese said the country's problems ran much deeper than one individual.

Protests have shaken Lebanon since last October as thousands have taken to the streets calling for the complete replacement of Lebanon’s political class.

“Today Hassan Diab is gone but this isn’t good because Nabih Berri and General [Michel] Aoun are still there,” Rita, a 45-year-old fashion designer, said in regards to the Parliament speaker and president.

A 27-year-old personal trainer volunteering near Martyrs' Square agreed that Diab was ultimately unimportant compared to other political figures. “He didn’t do anything for six months. We gave him many chances, but he kept disappointing the Lebanese. So far he was only doing what Hezbollah, Amal, and Aoun were asking for -- he was a puppet,” he told The Daily Star, preferring to speak anonymously.

Diab’s short-lived government was formed in January as a team of experts supposedly separate from the political elite who have run Lebanon since the Civil War. However, Diab's government was unable to enact meaningful reforms as the country’s economy collapsed. A huge explosion at Beirut Port last week led to the collapse of his government.

For some Diab was a good leader unable to succeed in a rotten system.

“Nobody helped him, he was a good man, but he was fighting alone,” 53-year-old engineer Moussa Badran said in Bachoura, which is just south of Downtown Beirut, before adding, “He didn’t have control anymore so he had to go.”

Many in Bachoura shared Badran’s sentiment that Diab hadn't been given a chance.

“They didn’t give him enough opportunity to work. You know all the leaders -- they are controlling the country: Berri, [former premier Saad] Hariri, [Lebanese Forces leader Samir] Geagea, [Kataeb Party leader Sami] Gemayel, Aoun,” said Ali Kreiss a 40-year-old car rental employee.

“All the parties they’re going to choose someone who meets their expectations not our expectations as the Lebanese people,” Kreiss said.

Of those who spoke to The Daily Star, only two people had suggestions about who should be the next prime minister. One person suggested Nawaf Salam, a judge at the International Court of Justice, and another person suggested that Hezbollah needed to take control.

However, while in general people knew who they didn’t want in power, they were bereft of ideas regarding who should replace Diab.

“We need new people but I can’t think of any names. Nobody from the established parties. They destroyed our country,” Mohamed Husseini said, dripping with sweat at the entrance of his laundrette shop in Bachoura.

For Anthony Asmar, a 24-year-old vet in Ashrafieh, the uncertainty over who would replace Diab had left him feeling gloomy. "I hope it's going to be better in the future, but we don’t know what the solutions are. We need to wait and see. We can’t know for sure. Maybe somebody worst will come,” he said.

He did not know whom he wanted to be the next leader, but he was sure it couldn’t be anyone from the established political parties. “We’re sick of them. They've been here for 30 years and still we don’t have anything; water, electricity, food. It’s time for a change, to rebuild and start everything from scratch.”

Badran was too exhausted to engage in the topic of new leadership. Standing outside a block of apartments buildings damaged in last week’s blast, he just wanted Lebanon's situation to improve. “I think they want Saad Hariri. I don’t care; any government can come. If you ask anyone else they don’t care; we just want the country to rise up.”

He looked up at cracked windows on the building he was about to enter. “We are really broken,” he said despondently.

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