Macron chides Lebanon over government formation failure

In wake of Mustapha Adib resigning, French president condemns ‘collective betrayal’

French president Emmanuel Macron: “All of them bet on the worst-case scenario for the sake of saving themselves, the interests of their family or their clan.” Photograph: Petras Malukas

French president Emmanuel Macron: “All of them bet on the worst-case scenario for the sake of saving themselves, the interests of their family or their clan.” Photograph: Petras Malukas

 

French president Emmanuel Macron has scolded Lebanon’s politicians for failing to form a government of experts to rescue Lebanon from economic, social and political catastrophe.

Speaking after Lebanese prime minister designate Mustapha Adib resigned, Mr Macron accused them of putting their own interests ahead of those of Lebanon and “collective betrayal” of their commitment to proceed with reforms.

“All of them bet on the worst-case scenario [for Lebanon] for the sake of saving themselves, the interests of their family or their clan,” he said.

He ruled out imposing sanctions for the time being, although recalcitrant politicians’ bank accounts in France and elsewhere could be frozen to exert pressure for compliance.

Mr Macron gave them up to six weeks to form a “mission cabinet” charged with ending mismanagement and corruption. Pledging never to abandon the Lebanese people, he said: “It is now up to Lebanese officials to seize this last chance.”

Once the cabinet is installed, Lebanon can access $21 billion (€18 billion) in foreign donor and International Monetary Fund finance intended to halt economic meltdown and address the impoverishment of half of Lebanon’s population.

Non-partisan experts

Mr Macron has visited Beirut twice since the August 4th explosion of more than 2,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate devastated the port and nearby neighbourhoods, and he extracted a promise that a government of non-partisan experts would be appointed by September 15th.

This did not happen and no fresh consultations have begun.

Singling out the powerful Shia Hizbullah movement as primarily responsible, he said: “It must show that it respects all Lebanese. In recent days, it has clearly shown the opposite.”

The Shias have taken the blame for the lack of progress although other factions also seek portfolios in violation of the deal with Mr Macron.

While Mr Adib was drawing up a list of appointees to his cabinet, Hizbullah and its Shia partner, Amal, reclaimed the traditional Shia post of finance minister. This demand was made after the Trump administration imposed sanctions on a former Amal finance minister and two companies linked to Hizbullah and the US ratcheted up sanctions on Hizbullah ally Iran.

Political factions

Hizbullah and Amal fear being marginalised if Sunnis, Druze and Christians combine to form a government without meeting Shia demands.

All political factions have benefited from the sectarian system of governance for decades while Lebanese at all levels of society relied on patronage to secure their requirements.

Last October, people took to the streets to call for an end to the system and the ousting of politicians who sought to impose taxes while they continued to acquire illicit wealth, the banks ran out of hard currencies and the economy collapsed.

Deadlock could persist until after Mr Macron’s conference at the end of October to raise funds for non-governmental and UN agencies to rebuild districts damaged by the port explosion.

Hizbullah and Amal could maintain their stance until the result is declared in the November 3rd US election. If President Donald Trump wins, they could maintain their hard line.

Delay can only deepen Lebanon’s economic misery as Covid-19 cases have soared to 36,000 with 1,000 daily infections.