Government Resignation over Beirut Blast: What Lies Ahead
Authored By- Sonika Khandelwal
Keywords- Beirut Blast, Govt. Resignation, Massive Explosion, Lebanon, Economic Crisis.
Observing the current political and economic crisis in Lebanon is what the author wants its readers to do. This article primarily deals with the reasons for current upheaval in Lebanon. The author also suggests some of the viable solutions to this crisis.
“I discovered that the system of corruption was bigger than the state and that the state is bound by this system and that it is not possible to confront it or get rid of it. We are taking a step back to stand with the people towards the battle for change with them”. These are the words of Hassan Diab, the Prime Minister of Lebanon, while resigning. Imagine a country which was once a regional and commercial center is now grappling with political and economic crisis.
A few years back in 2013 cargo of Maldovian ship MV Rhosus was stored in a warehouse. The cargo contained a large quantity of Ammonium Nitrate (NH4NO3). Two days before the Beirut blast government ordered repairing the door of that warehouse. But it caught fire during repairing which caused a large explosion equivalent to 3.3 magnitude of earthquake. It Caused large scale devastation, killing 200 people, and rendering thousands of people homeless and with severe injuries. According to Professor Andy Tyas this is unquestionably one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history, far bigger than any conventional weapon.
Ammonium Nitrate is used as a fertilizer in farming and an explosive in the mining industry when it combines with fuel oil. In many instances, it has been used as a bomb by militants. With the passage of time, it starts decaying and converts into the enormous rock. The chemical reaction becomes intense when it encounters the fire.
Despite repeated warning by the Directorate General of Lebanese (Customs) about the danger posed by the stored material, no action was taken. People of Lebanon believes that it was due to negligence and mismanagement by the government.
Before contemplating the future of this country let’s analyse the history of Lebanon.
1920: France was given the mandate of Lebanon by League of Nations.
1926: Lebanese representatives approved a constitution and declares itself a Republic.
1943: 1932 census was made a basis for the distribution of seats in the Parliament on a ratio of 6:5 in favour of Christians. Since then, a President is a Maronite Christian, PM a Sunni Muslim, and Speaker of Parliament a Shia Muslim.
1944: Independence of Lebanon from France
1972: First general election was held based on Universal Adult Franchise
1975-1990: Lebanese Civil War for which one of the reasons was the rising birth rate among Muslims and rising emigration rate among Christians. But, the rising population of Muslims was not factored in the distribution of Parliamentary seats.
1989: Taif accord was signed between Christians and Muslims transferring much of authority of the President to the cabinet. Also, the ratio of seats in the Parliament was changed to 5:5 from earlier 6:5. And, that was the culmination of the Civil War.
1991: National Assembly orders the dissolution of all Militias except for the powerful Shia group Hezbollah
1992: First general election after the civil war.
2020: Mass protest against economic stagnation and corruption in January which bring down the government of Saad Hariri. In August, Diab government quits after months of protest over plummeting Lebanese Pound, massive chemical explosion, and ofcourse, the impact of the Covid-19.
The root cause of such a large-scale political crisis and violent protest is confessionalism. Lebanon is an extremely diverse country in terms of religion, culture, and political institutions. This diversity has impeded the development of stable political arrangement and of single national identity. Confessionalism is a political system where the political institutions and public offices are distributed proportionately among different ethnic groups.
Future ahead for Lebanon:
Resignation of Prime Minister and other cabinet ministers implies the absence of ruling party which can govern and administer the nation. Assuming the post of care-taker PM means Diab has no power of passing laws and issue decrees. In the near future, there is no chance of the formation of a new government which leads to political crisis and resultant anarchy.
There is a dire need of restructuring the economy for its smooth functioning. After such a horrific disaster when the economy is stagnant relief packages are the panacea for its revival and mitigating the pain of the people of Lebanon. International funds have been arranged but due to lack of coordination and regulatory mechanism along with corruption and mismanagement, it has impeded the disbursal of these funds for the welfare of the people.
If the crisis of Lebanon continues very soon a day will come when an opportunist and powerful country can took over the reign of this nation just in case of Afghanistan. Since Lebanon is surrounded by Israel to its South, Syria to its North & East, and Iran-backed Hezbollah continue to dominate the political space, a day will come when Lebanon will lose its identity, sovereignty, and independence.
Culturally, politically, and religiously divided Lebanon restricts the formation of a single identity i.e. national identity. Any laws and policies followed by the consideration of ethnic interest and not the larger interest will only hinder the development of a nation.
Moreover, the protesters are not satisfied with the resignation of the government. They demand the removal of the political system based on confessionalism. So, many more such protests may be in line.
In the near future to overcome the current crisis in Lebanon is very bleak. It can only evolve out of this situation through the revolutionary movement. It is the time for global institutions like the World Bank and IMF to intervene and find a long-lasting and peaceful solution to its problems.