Fri | Sep 25, 2020

Lebanese gov’t resigns after Beirut blast, public anger

Published:Tuesday | August 11, 2020 | 12:21 AM
Anti-government protesters use fireworks against Lebanese riot police during a protest yesterday in the aftermath of last Tuesday’s massive explosion which devastated Beirut.
Anti-government protesters use fireworks against Lebanese riot police during a protest yesterday in the aftermath of last Tuesday’s massive explosion which devastated Beirut.

BEIRUT (AP):

Lebanon’s prime minister stepped down from his job Monday in the wake of the catastrophic explosion in Beirut that has triggered public outrage, saying he has come to the conclusion that corruption in the country is “bigger than the state”.

The move risks opening the way to dragged-out negotiations over a new cabinet amid urgent calls for reform. It follows a weekend of anti-government protests after the August 4 explosion in Beirut’s port that decimated the facility and caused widespread destruction, killing at least 160 people and injuring about 6,000 others.

In a brief televised speech after three of his ministers resigned, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said he and his government were stepping down.

“May God protect Lebanon,” he said, repeating the phrase three times. As he spoke, protesters demonstrated in the streets near parliament for a third straight day.

MASS DEMONSTRATIONS

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 on to power for so long – since the end of the civil war in 1990 – that it is difficult to find a credible political figure untainted by connections to it.

Diab blamed corrupt politicians who preceded him for the “earthquake” that has hit Lebanon.

“They (the political class) should have been ashamed of themselves, because their corruption is what has led to this disaster that had been hidden for seven years,” he added.

“I have discovered that corruption is bigger than the state, and that the state is paralysed by this (ruling) clique and cannot confront it or get rid of it,” said Diab, who was a professor at the American University of Beirut before he took the job.