KT edit: Lebanon needs comprehensive political reforms
Investors are unwilling to step in unless the divisive political stalemate is resolved.
Lebanon has had a history of civil and political strife, and every time the world thinks that the country has turned a corner there comes another crisis that threatens to blow up into all-out civil war. Lebanon is again being put through a trial by fire by a clueless political class who cannot shake off their militant and sectarian mindset. The current bunch of lawmakers, in fact, once headed militias, before the Taif Agreement in 1989 ended the 15-year civil war that killed thousands. A sectarian political system ensured they remained in power and merit was ignored. People were forced to vote on sectarian lines. The ballot was restrictive in a sense and gave rise to political dynasties that have continued to dominate the country's fragile and intrinsically flawed democratic process.
Under the system, the prime minister should be a Sunni Muslim; the president should be a Christian and the speaker of parliament a Shia Muslim. So PM Saad Hariri tendered his resignation to President Michael Aoun on Tuesday after two weeks of protests. He appeared helpless to stem the rot that had thrown the lives of ordinary people in peril. Food shortages, massive unemployment, youth unrest are only some of the many woes ailing the country.
The government needs money to run. Investors are unwilling to step in unless the divisive political stalemate is resolved. Add to that the role of Hezbollah, which operates both as a quasi-government and military. The group earned its spurs fighting the Israelis but are now a proxy of the regime in Iran. It has been designated as a terror group in the West and in the Gulf, but wields enough power to keep Lebanese government on tenterhooks. The country remains a powder keg of communal tensions and political ambition, but an apolitical movement have been successful in unseating a lame-duck PM. A government of technocrats is being mooted but patchwork solutions will only trigger more strife. Unless the sectarian political system is disbanded and people have a free choice to vote for deserving candidates who can rise above the divisions, history will repeat itself. For now, the Lebanese masses should take a bow and savour their victory.