Listen to the Secretary General – All Is Not Well!
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres lambasted Lebanon’s ruling elite and Hezbollah using harsh terms in his regular report to the Security Council on May 4. The Secretary General’s semi-annual report on the implementation of a 2004 Security Council resolution reiterated its two key demands that have yet to be fulfilled: the Lebanese government’s establishment of sovereignty throughout the country and the disarmament and disbandment of all Lebanese militias.
Furthermore, Mr. Guterres, who visited Lebanon in December, said no one had yet been held accountable for the Beirut Port explosion and the Lebanese people were demanding “truth and justice.” He again called for “a swift, impartial, thorough, and transparent investigation,” saying that “the independence of the judiciary must be respected.”
Regarding the overall situation of the Lebanese, Guterres said that the government’s factions have done little to address the economic collapse, leaving the Lebanese people to fend for themselves as they plunge into poverty, without reliable sources of electricity, medicine, rubbish collection, or any other semblance of normal life.
In its coverage of the report, the National pointed out that, “Self-declared opposition groups remain divided along ideological lines on virtually every issue, including over how to revive the economy, and as a result, there are an average of at least three different opposition lists in each of the 15 electoral districts, a 20% increase from the 2018 elections.”
Addressing internal security threats to the country, Guterres said Hezbollah’s maintenance, “of sizeable and sophisticated military capabilities outside the control of the government of Lebanon remains a matter of grave concern.” This followed Sayyad Hassan Nasrallah’s declaration in February that Hezbollah now had the capability to transform thousands of its missiles into precision-guided missiles, thus raising the threat to Israel exponentially.
Although a dubious remedy at this time, Secretary General Guterres urged the Lebanese state to, “increase its efforts to achieve a monopoly over the possession of weapons and the use of force throughout its territory.” He added, “I continue to urge the government and the armed forces of Lebanon to take all measures necessary to prohibit Hezbollah and other armed groups from acquiring weapons and building paramilitary capacity outside the authority of the state.”
Mr. Guterres report was released only a few days before the voting for a new parliament began among overseas Lebanese, with in-country voting slated for May 15. The most significant issues for people, according to most polls, pertain to the economy corruption and access to bank deposits. The issue of Hezbollah’s arms, while of great concern to some constituents, does not rank above fifth place in general importance to electors, who often find themselves unable to pay for basic foodstuffs, medicines, education, transportation, and other essentials. While the desperate economic situation would seem to provide a strong case for the opposition’s agenda, they are faced with many challenges in developing an appealing agenda and building common positions and solutions.
Overseas voting took place just this past weekend, one week ahead of the national polls in Lebanon. Without exit polls, however, any indications of the results will presumably be revealed through inference, until the votes are counted after May 15 that is. There are strong indications that the Lebanese Forces (LF) in particular may repeat its strong showing of 2018 but with three times as many expatriate voters in 2022, it is well-honed speculation at this point.
What is clear, though, is that the voting trends will be different this year as there seems to be a real chance for voters to pull enough seats away from the “Sulta” parties, the current ruling coalition, to have a more responsive and less corrupt government. What is extraordinary is that Lebanon, which has hobbled along without and effective government for the people for more than 30 years, still commands such concern in the Secretary General’s office as well as in Foreign Ministries in the US, France, and other countries. If this international attention can be channeled through the votes of the Lebanese abroad into an incentive for voters in Lebanon, then there is still hope.
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.