Alwaght- Lebanon is waiting for a new cabinet to be introduced in a few days to come to avoid a new political impasse as the economic crisis intensifies and the home political conflicts warm up.
While over the past week, the country experienced relative calm following the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, on Wednesday some demonstrators staged a sit-in outside the central building of the Association of Banks to protest the banking policies. They for a short time also blocked the street leading to the presidential palace.
The street protestors seek a government out of the common party sharings, mainly constituting technocratic figures with no grounds of corruption.
Hariri is one of the most likely choices to be designated for the PM post by President Michael Aoun. A Lebanese diplomat has told the Reuters news agency that Hariri is ready to return to the government under the condition that the new one is technocratic and capable of accelerating the demanded reforms to steer clear of economic collapse.
How likely is it to form a technocratic government in Lebanon without consideration to the traditional power-sharing?
End of Lebanese second republic
Certainly, one main requirement for a technocratic government is the disregard for significant parts of the Taif agreement of 1989 which initiated the religious-based power-sharing in the cabinet. According to an article of the agreement, the cabinet is divided equally between the Muslims and Christians. If the formation of a technocratic government is based on picking a technocratic prime minister without consideration of his religious grounds, the president will not be under obligation to choose a Sunni PM. This is just one violation of the Taif deal.
The national accord agreement put an end to 15 years of ferocious civil war. The period initiated by the Taif deal was dubbed “second republic” of Lebanon. The most important effect of the agreement was on the political structure of the country. The executive power was transferred from the president post to the cabinet whose ministers were chosen equally from Muslims and Christians.
So, a big challenge ahead of a technocratic cabinet formation that requires a power-sharing mechanism brush-off is persuading the political actors to agree with such a move. On Wednesday, huge crowds gathered in the streets of the capital to voice support to renewed Hariri premiership. Others turned out supporting President Aoun. They reflected earlier comments by Hezbollah leader Sayed Hassan Nasrallah who said if the supporters come to the streets, the equations will change.
These developments bear witness to the complexity of violating the Taif accord that will not only compound cabinet formation process but also put at stake the national political order and even social and economic stability, something running counter to the protestors’ demands for economic improvement.
Technocratic government with political aims
Many believe that if a national salvation government is to form by picking technocratic ministers, Saad Hariri should not head it because a Hariri-headed cabinet will be largely political as he represents a political camp. The opponents argue that Hariri’s return to government after resignation means he and his loyal political factions seek to exploit the popular protests in favor of de facto cancelation of 2018 election results in which Hezbollah and its allies won the majority of seats.
On the other side, there is an ambiguity that in case of an agreement on a technocratic government, who should be responsible for choosing the technocratic ministers and what standards should be consulted in this process. Most importantly, how such ministers can come out of a peaceful dialogue while the political sides are in never-ending competition for ministerial posts. The current and past ministerial structure is considered, it would be hard to be sure about an agreement among the politicians about a candidate. Currently, the US and the Israeli regime, two foreign forces with agents inside Lebanon, pursue neutralizing Hezbollah politically. This serves a broader aim of perpetuating instability in the small Arab country.
Therefore, Lebanon, in need of deep reforms to thwart deep economic crisis, may slip in a period of instability and Hariri acts impotently and limitedly in an acting government. In the present conditions, the country withstands a long process of bargaining which usually happens when cabinets need to be formed. In the case of the collapse of the economy and national currency, the Lebanese citizens’ incomes, retirement, and deposits may be compromised. The stock markets reopened recently after a two-week closure due to continued protests. Economists warn that distrust in the future can motivate the citizens to withdraw their money from banks and transfer it abroad, an action deepening the economic crisis in the country.
So, the parliament should pick a new PM under a majority agreement to form a government and block economic crisis spillover to the economy.
On Wednesday, Gebran Bassil, the foreign minister and the leader of the Christian Free Patriotic Movement, met Hariri. After the meeting, speculation began to flow that next Tuesday the president will name a new PM. During his meeting with UN special representative to Lebanon affairs Jan Kubis, president Aoun insisted that fighting corruption will be the top duty of the new government.
In the meantime, some sources have talked about the formation of a new government containing both politicians and experts. Half of the cabinet members, 14 ministers, are said to be technocrats.