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Activists reject candidates for new Lebanon government

Protesters chant slogans during ongoing demonstrations against the Lebanese political class, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon. (AP)
Protesters chant slogans during ongoing demonstrations against the Lebanese political class, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon. (AP)
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28 Dec 2019 01:12:29 GMT9
28 Dec 2019 01:12:29 GMT9

Najia Houssari

BEIRUT: Activists have rejected candidates being considered for Lebanon’s new government after their names were leaked on social media.

A recession, massive street protests and a political crisis have created chaos in the country and the man tasked with forming a new government and resolving these problems is Hassan Diab, who is prime minister-designate.

But the identities of candidates being considered for ministerial jobs have been leaked online and protesters are questioning whether they are truly independent of the ruling elite, which has been one of the targets of demonstrators’ anger and frustration.

President Michel Aoun has promised the Lebanese people that a new government will be their New Year’s Eve present, meeting Diab for a second time on Friday. Diab wants a government consisting of 18 specialists. 

Ziad Abdul Samad, an NGO specialist and civil society activist, said the leaked names showed disrespect to the people who had taken to the streets to condemn corruption and mismanagement. 

“The most obvious proof was the provocative names that were discussed by the prime minister-designate and the representatives of Hezbollah and the Amal Movement in order to get their blessing,” he told Arab News. “This will raise tension in the streets, especially with the absence of solutions to economic problems.”

Public affairs expert and activist Walid Fakhreddin said the civil movement was still ongoing at a political level and not necessarily in the streets, especially because of the holiday season and bad weather.

He criticized Diab’s performance, saying the prime-minister designate had not expressed his vision for the structure of the new government. “Even the names leaked appear to have their own agendas ... we are on the brink of an economic disaster and Lebanon does not have the luxury of time,” he told Arab News.

There were no divisions in the civil society movement, he added, but different points of view. “One that wants to continue the protests with the same pace and another that wants to wait for facts and results before formulating its stance.”

Riad El-Solh and Martyrs squares in Beirut were almost empty of protesters except for those clearing tents of rainwater or those setting up tents in place of ones that had been destroyed by a storm.

Brig. Gen. Imad Othman, general-director of Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces, said after a meeting with Aoun that police spent 70 days on the streets with demonstrators and that 295 officers were injured in clashes with protesters.

“The army that has a mission to fight the enemy finds itself facing a painful situation, and bearing this responsibility emanates from its keenness to protect public peace, and prevent discord,” he added.

Diab faces significant hurdles, including a boycott by influential political blocs that refused to nominate him because of the backing he received from the Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah, the Amal party and their allies.

The Future Movement has refused to take part in the new government, while Lebanon’s Sunni authority Dar El-Fatwa has not declared its position on Diab’s nomination.

Political declarations indicate that those who pledged to accept Diab’s condition of an independent and specialist government comprising a limited number of ministers have backed down on their promise. 

A decrease in the intensity of street demonstrations may have also led the political elite to believe it can contain the effects of a crisis that led to Saad Hariri’s resignation as prime minister two months ago.

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