Lebanon Daily News Brief 02/15/2022

Tuesday, February 15, 2022


BDL Governor Raided, Security Forces Unable To Locate Him
After Judge Ghada Aoun issued a subpoena for Lebanon’s Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh on February 1st, following his failure to attend three hearings as a witness of investigations probing his alleged misconduct, Lebanese security forces raided Salameh’s residences in Rabieh and Safra as well as his office at the Central Bank, but to no avail. Judge Aoun asserted that the subpoena would be extended indefinitely until he abides by it and appears in court. [Reuters] Denying accusations of interference in the enforcement of this warrant, the Directorate General of Internal Security Forces said that it, “did not prevent a State Security patrol from enforcing a subpoena against the governor of the central bank.” [Naharnet]

Mikati Reassures Elections To Be Properly Funded And Held On Time, Megacenters To Be Discussed In Cabinet
In an interview with Al-Akhbar newspaper, Prime Minister Najib Mikati reassured that Lebanon’s upcoming parliamentary elections would be held on time, clarifying that the funds for the elections are nearly secured. Though he indicated that he would likely not be running in the upcoming elections as a candidate himself, he added that, “my bloc and I will will participate and we definitely won’t boycott.” [Naharnet] Additionally, Mikati -at the request of President Michel Aoun- tasked the Minister of Interior and Municipalities Bassam Mawlawi with studying the subject of megacenters, potentially to be incorporated in the voting operations of the upcoming elections as well as in future polls. [MTV]

Al Hariri Family Marks 17th Anniversary of Rafik Al Hariri’s Assassination, Bahaa Outlines 30 Candidates Backed By Sawa Li Lubnan
Saad Al Hariri -a former Prime Minister and son of Rafik Al Hariri, who served as Prime Minister from 1992-1998 as well as from 2000-2004, before his assassination on February 14th, 2005- commemorated the 17th anniversary of his father’s death in Beirut. [Naharnet] Meanwhile, Bahaa -brother to Saad and the eldest son of the late Rafik- outlined the political program of Sawa Li Lubnan in an interview with Sawt Beirut on the eve of the anniversary. According to L’Orient Today, Bahaa, “announced that his party Sawa li Lubnan will put forward around 30 candidates in legislative elections scheduled for May 15. However, regarding his own candidacy, the businessman, who has been living outside Lebanon for 17 years, remained evasive, remarking that it was not a priority issue for the moment.” [L’Orient Today]

Court of Cassation Dismisses Recusal Request of Bitar’s Investigation
On Tuesday, a recusal request that has been suspending the investigation into the Beirut Port Explosion -overseen by Judge Tarik Bitar- was dismissed by Judge Rola Masri of the Lebanese Court of Cassation. The recusal request was filed by MP’s Ali Hassan Khalil and Ghazi Zoaiter, the former of whom was the subject of an arrest warrant issued by Bitar in December over the August 4th Port Explosion. [Naharnet] According to L’Orient Today“Masri’s ruling allows Eid and Ghantous to decide on the lawsuit filed against Bitar after their work had been suspended since the complaint was filed on Jan. 3 and they were notified on Jan. 25. A judicial source told L’Orient Today that the pair would resume examining the complaint against Bitar on Thursday. The cause for the complaint against Eid and Ghantous was reported as a prior rejection of a suit to dismiss Bitar.” [L’Orient Today]



For Whom The Bell Tolls?
Jean AbiNader

AbiNader writes, “As I prepare for my return visit to Lebanon next month, I imagine how I will react to the sadness and despair of the poor and marginalized as clubs and restaurants continue to serve those who are able to spend their untouchable dollars by going out and facing life as it is. I am concerned with my reactions to the obvious lack of shame from the government leadership that can’t feed the families of the ISF and LAF, fund elections, pay the salaries of local staff at embassies abroad, can’t fund adequate public and private health services, and can’t prioritize Lebanon’s sovereignty above the agendas of groups who unashamedly take orders from their overseas overlords. One reaction is anger. Another reaction is sadness, and two recent pieces of news stand out. A UN Security Council report that followed on the World Bank’s release of a paper recounting the many misdeeds of the elite that brought the country to this point of dissipation. Add to that the pattern of migration from Lebanon that does not tell the usual story of ‘I’m going to emigrate for opportunities and a future’, but rather conveys a resigned feeling of ‘I’m tired, desperate, full of anger and sadness, and I have to go’.”

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Voters And Reformists Face Obstacles In Leadup To Lebanon’s May Elections
Steven Howard 

Howard writes, “The opposition is not the only group struggling to come together. The departure of Saad Hariri from Lebanese politics will provide a crucial test for the Sunni community who were once united under the banner of his Future Movement (FM). While there is concern about the ramifications of this departure for Lebanese politics, Ibrahim Johari argues that these orphaned Sunni FM supporters are a clear and obvious bloc of voters that opposition parties can target. For many of those who are challenging the status quo in the upcoming elections, they face many bureaucratic hurdles in order to organize and fundraise on a level to compete with the established players. Dana Hourany notes that Minteshreen, a leading opposition group born from the October 19 demonstrations, has yet to even receive its registration for the elections in May. They applied last June. Many of these newer political parties currently lack the necessary registration to both fundraise and campaign. Mark Daou of Taqaddom told Hourany that “[t]here are no employees in the Ministry of Interior to receive our papers, and they would tell you to not bother as there were already a ton of applications they had to go through first.” Hourany notes that Beirut Madinati waited for over three years to receive notification they were officially registered.” 

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Lebanon: The Clock is Ticking for the World Bank’s Lake Qaraoun Project 
Hala Nasreddine

Nasreddine writes, “In 2016, Lebanon was given a $55 million World Bank loan to clean up the Litani River and lake Qaraoun. Five years later only a fraction of the money has been spent, the river and lake remain an open sewer and cancer rates have skyrocketed. Will the people of the Bekaa Valley ever see the rest of the money, and enjoy clean water?”

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.