Lebanese President Michel Aoun called on Monday (December 27) to end political paralysis in the country in crisis, indirectly accusing his ally, the Shiite movement Hezbollah, of blocking government meetings.
Formed in September after 13 months of interminable political negotiations, the government has not met since mid-October, due to tensions surrounding the investigation into the devastating explosion of August 4, 2020 at the port of Beirut which has killed at least 215 people, wounded 6,500 and destroyed entire areas of the capital. The ministers of powerful pro-Iranian Hezbollah and its ally, the Amal movement, said they would boycott its meetings until the replacement of investigating judge Tareq Bitar.
Blamed for criminal negligence, the authorities are accused by the families of the victims and NGOs of wanting to torpedo the investigation to avoid charges. « The government needs to meet today to resolve the issues in the Council of Ministers« , Said Michel Aoun during a speech broadcast Monday evening by Lebanese television channels. « By what law, logic or constitution, is this council of ministers suspended? Why is he being asked to make a decision that is beyond his authority?», He hammered again.
80% of the population below the poverty line
Michel Aoun asserted that the political impasse was worsening the economic crisis in which the country has been stuck since 2019 and which has been classified by the World Bank as the worst in the world since 1850, with an unprecedented depreciation of its currency and the impoverishment of the population. About 80% of the population in Lebanon live below the poverty line and the local currency has lost over 90% of its value on the black market.
The political class, unchanged for decades, is accused by a large part of the population of corruption, incompetence and inertia. Despite the urgency of reform, leaders persist in their political feuds, crippling institutions and delaying crucial negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
In another clear allusion to Hezbollah, which says it has « 100,000 armed and trained combatants« President Aoun also affirmed that »only the state » was « responsible for the country’s defense« . Hezbollah is the only formation in Lebanon to have been able to legally retain its weapons after the end of the civil war (1975-1990) in the name of « resistanceAgainst Israel.