Beirut: Parliament votes confidence in the Mikati government. Doubts about reforms
With 85 votes in favour and 15 against, MPs have given the green light to the new executive. Criticism from Lebanese Forces and some independents. The Hezbollah quandry and the barons who have held on to power for decades cast shadows over change. The goal of elections for May 8.
Beirut (AsiaNews) - The Lebanese Parliament yesterday granted confidence to the government led by Nagib Mikati, formed 10 days ago. This step should allow the new ministerial team to start the implementation of the recovery program of Lebanon, tormented for almost two years by an unprecedented socio-economic and financial crisis, defined by the World Bank as one of the worst since the first half of the 19th century. Due to the collapse of the national currency, rampant inflation and massive layoffs, according to United Nations estimates 78% of the Lebanese population now lives below the poverty line.
The government team obtained the confidence with the favorable vote of 85 deputies, 15 others decided to abstain, especially those who refer to the Lebanese Forces led by Samir Geagea, as well as some independent deputies. The overall figure shows that more than a dozen MPs, including former premiers Saad Hariri and Tammam Salam were absent at the time of the vote.
At the opening of the session, MPs were surprised by a power outage that lasted about an hour, before the generator of the Unesco building, used as the temporary seat of Parliament, was repaired by technicians. At the same time, the secretary general of the Chamber of Deputies denied that the building had received a supply of fuel from Iran: an implicit reference to the quantities that arrived in Lebanon last week through illegal border crossings on the orders of Hezbollah.
It should also be pointed out that Hezbollah had transported to the site, using two trucks, two large power generators powered by Iranian fuel, just to make up for the breakdown that occurred. And the deputy of the pro-Iranian Shiite party Ibrahim Moussaoui did not hesitate to give account and publicity to the news, releasing a video on social networks.
The parliamentary session began around noon with a minute's silence in memory of the victims of the explosion of a tanker loaded with gasoline on August 15 in Akkar; then followed the reading of the ministerial declaration approved on September 16 at the Council of Ministers. Premier Mikati was interrupted by the head of the Legislative Office, who asked not to read the document internally in order to gain time, fearing a new power cut that would cause further delays in the works.
Electricity interruptions have increased throughout the country in the last month, paralyzing the lives of the population and several vital sectors. Rationing is now abroad for 22 hours a day in some regions. At the end of the interventions of the various deputies, Mikati took the floor in the evening. His speech served to outline once again the action of the government team. In particular, he reiterated his determination to start negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a necessary step to obtain financial assistance from the world community in order to get the country out of the crisis.
The prime minister also promised to address the country's banking crisis, as the Lebanese have been subject to draconian financial restrictions since the fall of 2019, in the absence of a legal framework vis-à-vis the measures taken by credit institutions. Acting as a spokesperson for the vast majority of Lebanese, Amal MP Inaya Ezzeddine said that the new government team represents "the last ray of hope before the collapse" of the nation. She then added that "the possibility for current account holders to recover their deposits in the banks must be the main criterion by which citizens will judge the action of this government". In this sense Mikati should urge Parliament to pass a fair rule on capital controls, to do justice to small savers.
The premeir also pledged to closely follow the investigation of the double explosion at the port of Beirut on August 4, 2020, in addition to compensation for the families of the victims and those affected by the tragedy, as well as the work of reconstruction of the port itself. "Of course, this vote shows a trend towards appeasement," political scientist Karim Mufti points out to Afp, "but it is a short-term appeasement, which will only allow Lebanon to pull its head out of the water.
Referring to the barons of the Lebanese ruling class, who have remained virtually unchanged for decades, Mufti added: "We can ask questions about the ability of this government to implement the necessary reforms [...] which all lead to a collapse in earnings for these oligarchs [...] and which require a political courage that this executive does not have and will not have". The new cabinet will have just enough time to launch some of the promised reforms, before the next electoral deadline with parliamentary elections scheduled for May 8 next year. And that it has promised to carry out within the deadline.