The Lebanese Parliament on September 20 gave its confidence to the new government headed by Prime Minister Najib Mikati, whose main mission will be to address the multidimensional crisis that the country is going through.
After reviewing the government’s action plan in an eight-hour marathon session, 85 MPs put their trust in the new ministerial team, while 15 voted against, according to the tally set by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri .
Stuck in an unprecedented economic crisis – described by the World Bank as one of the worst in the world since 1850 – Lebanon adopted a new government on September 10, after 13 months of endless political negotiations and emptiness that worsened the crisis. With the national currency plummeting, rampant inflation and massive layoffs, 78% of the Lebanese population now live below the poverty line, according to the UN.
Power outages and fuel shortage
Parliament was due to start debate on the confidence vote at 11 a.m. (8 a.m. GMT) but the session was delayed by about an hour due to another power outage, in a country inhabited by darkness for months. Videos circulating on social media showed MPs gathered in a courtyard outside the building while waiting for power to be restored and the session resumed.
Power cuts have increased sharply in recent months in the country, crippling the lives of the population and several vital sectors. Rationings have reached more than 22 hours a day in some areas, forcing even generator owners to ration their production as fuel becomes scarce.
And the endless queues keep stretching out in front of the gas stations for lack of fuel. A large part of the population accuses the political class considered corrupt and incompetent to be at the origin of the financial collapse of the country and the multiple shortages in which the country, short of foreign currencies, is struggling.
The shock wave of the explosion of the port of Beirut
Lebanon, where the Shiite Hezbollah movement has a preponderant influence, had been without a new government since the resignation of the cabinet of Hassan Diab in the wake of the devastating explosion at the port of Beirut on August 4, 2020, which left more than 200 dead and devastated entire districts of the capital.
Among the countless challenges, the new government will have to quickly reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), an essential step for a way out of the crisis. It will also have to prepare the ground for the legislative elections scheduled in principle for May 2022.
Before parliamentarians, Najib Mikati again pledged on September 20 “to resume negotiations with the IMF and to develop a plan to revive the economy”.
He also promised to tackle the country’s banking crisis, while the Lebanese have been subject to draconian banking restrictions since the fall of 2019, in the absence of any legal framework for the measures taken by the banks.
Since the formation of the cabinet, skepticism remains in the population, the same parties, unanimously conspired during a protest movement unprecedented almost two years ago, still being in power.
The international community, led by France, has repeatedly called for the formation of a reforming government, making the granting of substantial aid conditional on structural reforms that have been overdue for years.