Forming a government seems like an impossible task for Lebanon since the Prime Minister-designate Moustapha Adib quit on Saturday, September 26, 2020, after failing to line up a non-partisan cabinet, dealing a blow to the French plan aimed at rallying sectarian leaders to tackle the country’s crisis. His efforts were doomed due to the Shiite Amal and Hezbollah groups’ insistence on naming Shiite ministers and appointing a Shiite figure as a finance minister.
On Sunday, September 27th, Macron slammed Hezbollah for obstructing the government formation efforts. He vowed that he will not give up on his initiative to save Lebanon from collapse, but added that he was “ashamed” of the Lebanese leaders who had “betrayed” their country and reneged on their commitments. Macron had repeatedly pressed Lebanon’s leaders to form the government, saying a reform-minded cabinet was essential if aid were to flow in to rebuild the country.
“I see that the Lebanese authorities and political forces chose to favor their partisan and individual interests to the detriment of the general interest of the country,” Macron added. “All of them bet on the worst-case scenario for the sake of saving themselves, the interests of their family or their clan,” he said. “I, therefore, have decided to take note of this collective betrayal and the refusal of Lebanese officials to engage in good faith.”
Macron sent a pointed warning to the Iran-backed Shia group Hezbollah, which was well represented in the outgoing government, and some analysts accused of holding up the process. Hezbollah should “not think it is more powerful than it is … It must show that it respects all the Lebanese. And in recent days, it has clearly shown the opposite,” said Macron. “There’s a question that needs to be asked to Hezbollah and ourselves. Is it really a political party or does it proceed just in a logic dictated by Iran, and its terrorist forces?” he added.
He gave Lebanon’s political class four to six weeks to implement his road map for political and economic reform set out on his last visit on September 1 and said he would commit to holding a donor conference for Lebanon in October. He ruled out imposing sanctions for now.
Initially, Lebanon’s politicians initially committed to the plan and named a new PM-designate, Moustapha Adib, who promised to deliver a Cabinet within two weeks. To avert the usual horse-trading among factions over ministries, Adib tried to pick his own names to form the government.
But the two main Shiite parties, Hezbollah and Amal, accused him of acting on behalf of their local political rivals. They insisted on naming Shiite members of the Cabinet and on keeping the Finance Ministry for their sect. Adib refused and stepped down Saturday.
However, even if a government is formed, Lebanon will not be out of the woods. IMF negotiations failed in July because Lebanese actors could not agree among themselves.
On Monday, September 28th, Lebanese President Michel Aoun stressed his commitment to the initiative of French President Emmanuel Macron regarding the Lebanese crisis, even though it appears he will not call for parliamentary consultations to name a new prime minister any time soon. His remarks came during a meeting with French Ambassador Bruno Foucher on a farewell visit to mark the end of his diplomatic missions in Lebanon.
Aoun regretted that Prime Minister-designate, Mustapha Adib, was unable to form the new government in line with the French initiative, especially regarding the reforms that are supposed to be implemented, mostly because they are a key factor for the access to foreign aid after the explosion on August 4th.
Meanwhile, presidential sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that no date has been set yet for the binding parliamentary consultations to name a new PM, describing the current phase as “a period for assessing the Adib experience and Macron’s recent statements” on Lebanon.
As a reaction to the recent constant French effort for the resolution of the Lebanese crisis, on Monday, September 28th, the Iranian Foreign Ministry rejected any direct or indirect intervention in Lebanon’s internal affairs, saying it would not solve the country’s crisis. “The issue of Lebanon is an internal issue, and we believe that it should be resolved within the Lebanese framework and the Lebanese people’s will while other countries can only provide assistance,” spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a statement.
Khatibzadeh stressed that the formation of the Lebanese government is an internal matter and should be resolved according to the Lebanese people’s will. “We spoke with France about Lebanon earlier, but we do not invite any country to interfere in Lebanon’s affairs,” he added.
In a statement of the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, the reaction towards the current events is as follows: “The EU notes with disappointment and concern the resignation of PM-designate Mustapha Adib and the circumstances that led to his decision. Lebanon’s leaders must unite and do their utmost for the timely formation of a Government that must be able to meet the legitimate needs and demands of the Lebanese people and will be committed to addressing Lebanon’s acute and multiple challenges – notably its humanitarian, socio-economic and financial crises, the coronavirus pandemic and the reconstruction of Beirut. The swift formation of a government would be also crucial to reach an urgently needed agreement with the IMF. The EU reaffirms its continuous strong support for Lebanon and its people, for its stability, security, territorial integrity, sovereignty, and political independence”.
This article was edited using data from the following websites: www.aljazeera.com, www.eeas.europa.eu, www.apnews.com, www.middleeastmonitor.com, www.english.aawsat.com, www.asiatimes.com, and www.lorientlejour.com.