BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon’s government resigned Monday amid widespread public fury at the country’s ruling elite over last week’s devastating explosion in Beirut. The move risks opening the way to dragged-out negotiations over a new Cabinet amid urgent calls for reform.
Prime Minster Hassan Diab headed to the presidential palace to submit the Cabinet’s group resignation, said Health Minister Hamad Hassan. It follows a weekend of anti-government protests in the wake of the Aug. 4 explosion in Beirut’s port that caused widestpread destruction, killed at least 160 people and injured about 6,000 others.
The moment typified Lebanon’s political dilemma. Since October, there have been mass demonstrations demanding the departure of the entire sectarian-based leadership over entrenched corruption, incompetence and mismanagement.
But the ruling oligarchy has held onto power for so long — since the end of the civil war in 1990 — that it is difficult to find a credible political figure not tainted by connections to them.
Although Diab’s resignation had appeared inevitable after the catastrophe, he seemed unwilling to leave and only two days ago made a televised speech in which he offered to stay on for two months to allow for various factions to agree on a road map for reforms. But the pressure from within his own Cabinet proved to be too much.
Diab’s government was formed after his predecessor, Saad Hariri, stepped down in October in response to the demonstrations. It took months of bickering among the leadership factions before they settled on Diab.
His government, which was supported by Hezbollah and its allies and seen as one-sided, was basically doomed from the start, tasked with meeting demands for reform but made up of all the factions that reformers want out. His government was basically doomed from the start, tasked with meeting demands for reform but made up of all the factions that reformers want out.
Now the process must start again, with Diab’s government in a caretaker role as the same factions debate a new one.
“I hope that the care taking period will not be long because the country cannot take that. Lets hope a new government will be formed quickly,” Public Works Minister Michel Najjar told reporters. “An effective government is the least we need to get out of this crisis.”
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