French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday castigated the “betrayal” of the Lebanese political class, in the aftermath of a failed attempt to form a government in this country more than ever in crisis and shutdown.
“I am ashamed” for the Lebanese leadership, the French president said in a serious and strained tone, during a hastily called press conference at the Elysee Palace.
Lebanon finds itself Sunday without the slightest prospect of exiting the crisis after the resignation of Prime Minister designate Moustapha Adib, unable to form a government due to political quarrels over portfolios.
This renunciation appears to mark the failure of the initiative launched by Mr. Macron after the tragic explosion of August 4 at the port of Beirut, a new test for a country in the grip of the worst economic, social and political crisis in its history.
The political parties had made a commitment to Mr. Macron, who came to Beirut at the beginning of September, to form a cabinet of “competent” and “independent” ministers within two weeks, a condition for sending the necessary international aid to the government. recovery of the country.
On Sunday evening, the French head of state “took note of the collective betrayal” of the Lebanese parties which he said “bear full responsibility” for this failure.
His word was expected – “A renunciation of serious repercussions and all eyes on Macron,” the Arabic-language daily Annahar headlined Sunday – but the options available to him appear limited in the immediate future.
The leaders of Cedar Country have a “last chance” to honor their commitments, in order to form a “mission government and secure international aid,” he urged.
Throwing in the towel on Saturday, Adib said he saw the lack of consensus among the parties despite the urgent need to carry out the reforms called for by the international community to unlock billions of dollars in aid.
Fears are growing for a further deterioration of the situation in the country, where the ruling class, virtually unchanged for decades, is accused of corruption, incompetence and indifference by a large part of the population.
The head of state must now conduct further binding parliamentary consultations to appoint a prime minister. But this process risks, once again, dragging on and even failing.
The formation of the government has been hampered by demands by the Shiite Hezbollah party, an ally of Iran which dominates Lebanese politics, and its ally Amal who demanded the finance portfolio.
Observers say their stubbornness is linked to US sanctions imposed on an Amal finance minister and two Hezbollah-affiliated companies.
Hezbollah “must not think it is stronger than it is,” Emmanuel Macron said Sunday evening. This party “cannot at the same time be an army at war against Israel, a militia unleashed against civilians in Syria and a respectable party in Lebanon. It is up to him to show that he respects the Lebanese as a whole. In recent days, he has clearly shown the opposite ”.
“The will of Amal and Hezbollah was not to make any concessions,” denounced the French president.
“Four to six weeks”
Emmanuel Macron sets a horizon of “four to six weeks” so that international donors can see if it is still possible for Lebanon to endow itself with a mission government or if it is necessary to consider a complete change of paradigm for the country Cedar.
“In about a month, a month and a half, we will have to take stock […] if there is no progress internally, then we will be forced to envisage a new phase very clearly and to ask the question of confidence: is a mission government on the basis of roadmap is still possible? Or should we change the situation at that point and perhaps go down a more systemic path of political recomposition in Lebanon? ”He said, adding that it would be a“ very adventurous ”track.
Macron ruled that without an agreement on the bases discussed in August, Lebanon risked either “civil war” or continuing to get bogged down with a government of “profiteers”. And in any case, that the country could not count under these conditions on international financial assistance which it sorely needs.
Fears for the country are also of a security nature with an upsurge in violence. On Sunday, two soldiers were killed by “terrorists” according to the army, the day after the death of nine members of a cell linked to the jihadist group Islamic State in northern Lebanon.
Mr. Adib succeeded Hassan Diab who resigned after the devastating explosion on August 4 in a warehouse where large quantities of ammonium nitrate were stored at the port of Beirut: more than 190 dead, more than 6,500 injured and neighborhoods destroyed.
This was too much drama in a country suffering from a plummeting national currency, hyperinflation and large-scale impoverishment of its population, not to mention the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Monday, President Michel Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, warned that Lebanon would head to “hell” in the absence of a new government.
For political scientist Karim Bitar, “if we do not go to hell, we will probably see an escalation of violence, a weakening of public institutions, a worsening of the economic crisis and a wave of emigration”.