Lebanon's crucial next two weeks

If a new Cabinet is not formed in the coming two weeks, the country will enter a dark tunnel from which only foreign intervention can help it emerge

  
Image used for illustrative purpose. A demonstrator wears a national flag as he takes part in ongoing anti-government protests in Beirut, Lebanon November 6, 2019.

Image used for illustrative purpose. A demonstrator wears a national flag as he takes part in ongoing anti-government protests in Beirut, Lebanon November 6, 2019.

REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

If you follow the political process surrounding the formation of a new Cabinet, you would think Lebanese democracy is at work. However, nothing is working in Lebanon. The Lebanese government is failing to provide the basic needs a normal state should provide to its citizens.

Shortages in gasoline, medicine and medical supplies; people’s savings being held by banks; and the imminent threat of the country plunging into total darkness unless the Central Bank secures funds to subsidize fuel are all signs that Lebanon is headed toward a total collapse. Even traffic lights don’t work and garbage collection is always at risk of becoming a major crisis and a national embarrassment.

Amid these challenges and the total collapse of the state’s basic functions, the ruling political factions continue to squabble over ministers' quotas and portfolios in the Cabinet. It is mind-boggling why leaders of the country would continue to advance personal interests over the country’s recovery and decide to sit idle and watch the erosion of the state. To exacerbate the situation, they have resorted to the blame game, betting that time is on their side and the collapse could be used to their advantage, while deadline after deadline is missed due to political deadlocks.

If the Beirut Port ’s horrific explosion didn’t force the country’s ruling class to change the way they have mismanaged and squandered the wealth of the nation, one would certainly conclude that the current leaders only care about their privileges and narrow interests. The next two weeks are crucial and will determine the direction the country will take over the next few years.

The two-weeks deadline was set by the imminent financial pressure; the Central Bank can no longer afford to subsidize fuel, medicine and basic goods. If a new Cabinet is not formed in the coming two weeks, the country will enter a dark tunnel from which only foreign intervention can help it emerge.

With one year left inthe term of the current Parliament and little over a year until the presidential election, the country seems unable to meet any of these constitutional landmarks given the current impasse. The future of the country as a sovereign state is at risk and the confessional leaders are not willing to compromise and advance the country’s interests.

The political system has proven that it needs updating and Lebanese cannot do that on their own or through constitutional parameters. Holding an international conference to broker a new settlement and a new national pact has become a must rather than an option, after which getting the regional and international community to expend diplomatic efforts would be the main challenge.

Mouafac Harb is a veteran American-Lebanese journalists. He contributes a weekly article to The Daily Star.

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