Lebanese PM Resigns Over Corruption

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab submits his resignation to President Michel Aoun at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon [Dalati Nohra/Handout via Reuters]




Lebanese President Michel Aoun has accepted the resignation of the country’s government and asked it to stay on in a caretaker capacity until a new cabinet is formed.

The announcement on Monday came amid boiling tensions in the country following a devastating explosion last week that tore through the capital, Beirut, killing some 200 people and wounding 6,000 others.

“This crime” was a result of endemic corruption that is “bigger than the state”, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said in a televised statement earlier on Monday, adding that he was taking “a step back” so he could stand with the people “and fight the battle for change alongside them”.

]”I declare today the resignation of this government. May God protect Lebanon,” Diab said, repeating the last phrase three times.

The developments follow a weekend of angry, violent anti-establishment protests in which 728 people were wounded and one police officer killed amid a heavy crackdown by security forces.

Through analysis of videos and images of the security response by the army and men in plain-clothes on the day, and examination of medical documents and interviews with doctors who treated the wounded, Al Jazeera established that security forces violated international standards on the use of force.

Political and economic reforms

The August 4 disaster, which was caused by highly explosive ammonium nitrate that was stored at Beirut’s port for more than six years, has fuelled popular anger and upended politics in a country already struggling with a major economic crisis.

Most Lebanese blame their leadership’s corruption and neglect for the explosion, which has caused damage to the extent of an estimated $15bn and left nearly 300,000 people homeless.

Since October, there have been mass demonstrations demanding the departure of the entire sectarian-based leadership over entrenched corruption, incompetence and mismanagement.

But the ruling oligarchy has held onto power for so long – since the end of the civil war in 1990 – that it is difficult to find a credible political figure not tainted by connections to them.

Although Diab’s resignation had appeared inevitable after the catastrophe, he seemed unwilling to leave and only two days ago made a televised speech in which he offered to stay on for two months to allow for various factions to agree on a road map for reforms. But the pressure from within his cabinet proved to be too much.

Meanwhile, Habib Battah, a Lebanon-based journalist, questioned how long the caretaker government would remain in place since it is “very difficult” to form a government in Lebanon.

“The Diab government was many months in the making,” Battah said.

He said while the resignation could be seen as a victory for the protesters who view the government as a “corrupt system”, it is important to note that others benefit from it.

Political parties control schools and hospitals, among other things across the country.

“These parties are really tough to compete against in elections,” Battah said, adding that it was up to the international community to stop supporting these parties if it were serious about helping Lebanon.

Aljazeera and News Agencies