Politics

Lebanon's Hizbullah-backed PM still lacks popular support

By Junaid Salman in Beirut

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Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab gives a statement following his meeting with outgoing Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri in Beirut on December 20th. Diab said he wants to form a government of independent technocrats that can tackle the spiralling economic crisis as protests against his nomination spread. [Stringer/AFP]

One week after being tasked with forming Lebanon's next government, prime minister-designate Hassan Diab still has not gained consensus among the country's political elite or the youth who took to the streets in raging protests since October 17th.

The main political parties, namely the Future Movement, the Progressive Socialist Party, the Lebanese Forces and the Phalanges Party, objected to his selection and went as far as refusing to take part in the government he was charged with forming.

This resulted in protestors labeling the prospective government as a "one-color government", in reference to a government dominated by Hizbullah and its allies.

President Michel Aoun on December 19th designated 60-year-old engineering professor Diab as the country's next prime minister, replacing Saad al-Hariri who quit in late October in the face of mass protests.

Prominent street leaders on December 22nd shunned an invitation by Diab to sit for talks over the formation of a new government, saying they are not ready to extend support.

Their refusal followed protests in which roads were blocked across the country to condemn the premier's designation in a divisive vote that sparked uproar among members of the Sunni community.

Protests 'will continue'

Political activist and professor Halima Kaakour, who, as a representative of the protestors, received one vote in the parliamentary consultations to appoint a new prime minister, told Al-Mashareq "the revolution will continue until the people's demands are met".

"Our demands are for the formation of a government comprised of independents who have not been part of the ruling elite previously," she said.

The new government must address three basic issues: combating corruption, tackling the economic crisis, and holding early elections, she said.

"We want a government that implements the required reforms and pulls us out of the economic crisis with measures that do not come at the expense of the poor," said Kaakour.

"Only then will we get off the streets."

The protests will continue despite Diab's designation to form the government "because he represents a political class against which the revolution rose", said Makram Rabah, who lectures at the American University of Beirut's history department.

"The protestors are demanding political and economic reform that is still far from being implemented, especially that the way the new government is being formed will impede any reform sought by the protestors," he said.

The prospective government is being formed by one or two parties in power, and thus it will represent this political class against which the people are demonstrating, Rabah said, in reference to Hizbullah and its allies.

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