Impact of Hariri's Resignation on Lebanon

By Apoorva Iyer 

With the resignation of Lebanese politician Saad al-Hariri, the country is set to intensify the rising political instability in the region. Not only that, it would lead to the rise in the economic crisis in the country, leading to a further increase in inflation.

 

Background

 

There was an explosion in the Beirut port in August 2020, which was then followed by the resignation of Prime Minister Hassan Diab's cabinet. It was in October 2020 when politician Saad al-Hariri was asked to form the government. However, since President Michel Aoun and Hariri could not compromise on the cabinet composition, Hariri resigned on 15th July 2021. This new political development has thrown the country off the edge as the overall chances of forming a new one in Lebanon is diminishing. [1]

 

His resignation resulted in protests in several Sunni- dominated regions of Beirut, Sour and Tripoli, with the protestors setting fire to tyres and trash. Even one soldier was wounded due to the stone pelters.

 

Rising Political Instability in the Region

 

Hariri is a Sunni politician. Even though he has been lacking support from Sunni dominated Saudi Arabia, he is backed by most of the other Arab League nations. On the other hand, President Aoun, the Maronite Christian head of state, has support from Hezbollah and Shia-dominated Iran. Now Hariri wanted to have technocratic cabinet ministers, while Aoun wanted to preserve the influence of the Free Patriotic Movement and Hezbollah in selecting the cabinet ministers. Since both of them were unwilling to compromise, Hariri resigned from his position, leaving it to the Dian government to be the caretaker. 

 

Despite US and French mediation efforts, it has not been possible to form a new government. Not only that, but the EU also had threatened more sanctions on the country if there is any further delay in the government formation. Rather than acting as a motivation for the political leaders, this is considered a demotivation to the political leaders that further pushed Hariri to step down.

 

Now, the government formation in the country is a complicated affair as due to the legacy of the French colonial rule, the President should be a Maronite Christian President, the Prime Minister should be a Sunni Muslim and the President of the National Assembly should be a Shia Muslim. Using these religious groups, regional powers, mainly the Shia-majority Iran and Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia, exert their influence in the country's internal politics. Now, to appoint a Prime Minister, there is a greater need to arrange diplomatic talks between these critical regional powers. Unfortunately, getting them to compromise is a very tedious task that would further delay the appointment of the Prime Minister. 

 

If a Prime Minister is not chosen as soon as possible, there is a possibility for Hezbollah to increase its influence in the government that would eventually lead to more conflicts with the State of Israel. Apart from that, in the absence of a permanent government, the major international aids that were to be used have been stalled due to the lack of implementation of the necessary economic reforms.

 

Worsening Economic Crisis

 

The rising political instability has also led to a rise in the economic crisis in the country. The economic freefall is the worst situation the country has experienced since the 1975-90 civil war. The annual inflation in the country has risen to over 400%, [2] while the currency value has dropped over 90% to 15,150 Lebanese pounds to the dollar. [3]

 

Lebanon has over 2 million Syrian refugees This refugee population in the country further adds to the economic crisis. [4] An increase in the population is resulting in overcrowding and increase in food prices. This is the major cause of the rise in inflation to 400%. Not only that, this would also lead to a security crisis as the militants can exploit poverty to expand their influence. [5] Nonetheless, on 26 July, 2021, billionaire business tycoon Najib Mikati was able to secure 72 out of 118 votes to secure the Prime Ministerial candidate position and now faces a challenge to form a government. [6] He has been the Prime Minister before as well.

 

Forecast

 

Unfortunately, the situation is different this time. He will be taking charge when the country is facing heightened political instability, economic crisis, rising inflation and above all, increased hardship due to the new wave of COVID-19 due to the Delta Variant. This new wave would put more pressure on the already fragile health system. Along with that, with the one-year anniversary of the Beirut port blast approaching, there will likely be unrest in major urban areas. It is because August 4 has been declared a national day for mourning. Thus, demonstrations by the public demanding justice for the victims of the blast is highly likely. Public frustration might also lead to clashes between the civilian and the security forces. Hence, the next few days are extremely crucial as the political decisions that will be made in the coming weeks will be the deciding factor for making or breaking the country. 

 

REFERENCE

[1] Chehayeb, Kareem. “Lebanon's PM-Designate Saad Hariri Resigns as Crisis Escalates.” Politics News | Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, 16 July 2021, www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/7/15/lebanon-pm-designate-saad-hariri-resigns-as-crisis-escalates

[2] Hubbard, Ben, and Hwaida Saad. “Lebanon's Financial Collapse Hits Where It Hurts: The Grocery Store.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 22 Mar. 2021, www.nytimes.com/2021/03/22/world/middleeast/lebanon-currency-groceries.html.

[3] “Lebanon Currency Drops to New Low as Financial Meltdown Deepens.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 13 June 2021, www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/lebanon-currency-drops-new-low-financial-meltdown-deepens-2021-06-13/

[4] Karasapan, Omer, and Sajjad Shah. “Why Syrian Refugees in Lebanon Are a Crisis within a Crisis.” Brookings, Brookings, 15 Apr. 2021, www.brookings.edu/blog/future-development/2021/04/15/why-syrian-refugees-in-lebanon-are-a-crisis-within-a-crisis/

[5] Bello, Giulia Dal. “Managing a Crisis: Hezbollah's Welfare Expansion.” E-IR, 26 Apr. 2021, www.e-ir.info/2021/04/26/managing-a-crisis-hezbollahs-welfare-expansion/

[6] Laila Bassam, Maha Dahan. “Lebanese PM-Designate Mikati Aims to FORM Gov't to Implement Reform Plan.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 26 July 2021, www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/lebanese-president-meets-businessman-mikati-set-be-designated-premier-2021-07-26/