This Week in Lebanon

Monday, November 23, 2020
Opinion by Heidi Ahmed
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NOVEMBER 22, 2020
Delay in Government Formation
Independents’ Success in Student Council Elections
UN Special Coordinator’s Response to Government Delay

 

Continued Delay in Government Formation
President Michel Aoun met with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri last week to discuss Lebanon’s government formation. It was reported that the meeting ended negatively when President Aoun insisted on naming Christian ministers. A former Lebanese PM said that this delay furthers Hezbollah’s wishes to push further government consultations to early next year, after US President-Elect Joe Biden is inaugurated. (Naharnet)

ANALYSIS

“Hezbollah’s gamble to wait for a Biden administration before assenting to a new government is dangerous and will drive the Lebanese into more poverty, emigration, and joblessness. Lebanon’s economy has days, not weeks, to form an independent government in order to receive necessary international support and avoid economic collapse. A Biden administration has made it clear that any new agreement with Iran will include curbs on “terrorist proxies.” So I’m not sure why Hezbollah waits! If an independent, reform minded government is delayed, a Biden administration in its first week should signal its agreement with France to reprogram some CEDRE and international aid to direct aid to civil society to support universities, election reform, and social safety net programs.”
-ATFL President Edward M. Gabriel


Independents Make an Impression in Student Council Elections
Lebanese American University’s student council seats are usually dominated by the right-wing political party Lebanese Force, but this year, independent students won all the student council seats they ran in: 14 out of 30 seats total. The American University of Beirut also saw strong results for independents at 80 out of 101 seats, and Rafik Hariri University’s independents took four out of nine seats. (Al Jazeera)

ANALYSIS

“Finding a bright spot in the Lebanese landscape is almost impossible these days but, once again, young people are leading the way. There has been a great deal of concern that the October 17 demonstrators are unable to organize, agree on a central platform, and create a coherent strategy for mobilizing the street. Well, recent university student elections were dominated by the independents. This is a small but reassuring sign that the youth still want to have a say in their future and are working on coalescing around a proactive message to challenge the old guard.”
-ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader


UN Special Coordinator on Government Delay
UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jan Kubis participated in an interview with France 24 during which he bemoaned the delay in Lebanon’s government formation. He stressed that he wants to see a government formed in days, not weeks and that the lack of accountability in the government only furthers the public’s mistrust. (France 24)

ANALYSIS

“It seems that progress is imperceptible in forming a new government. The UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, emphasizing the severity of the situation, wants to see results in days not weeks. Data tells the story as poverty and unemployment increase; the coronavirus is rising to dangerous levels; the value of the lira is headed toward 8,500 to the dollar; and some 2,000 medical personnel have left the country. Kubis warned that if the political vacuum continues, Lebanon could face a ‘humanitarian catastrophe and even a collapse.’ Not much to add…the signs are clear.”
-ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed 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.