About Us Contact Us Privacy Policy
© GOOD Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Lebanon's government steps down amid public outrage over Beirut blast that left over 160 dead

The announcement followed days of violent protests demanding culpability from the country's leaders.

Lebanon's government steps down amid public outrage over Beirut blast that left over 160 dead
Cover Image Source: Getty/ Damaged apartment buildings and the ruins of a silo at the city's port, the site of Tuesday's massive explosion, on August 8, 2020, in Beirut, Lebanon. (Photo by Marwan Tahtah)

Lebanon's government has stepped down less than a week after a massive explosion in Beirut killed over 160 people and left more than 200,000 homeless. Prime Minister Hassan Diab made the announcement in a national TV address on Monday evening, calling the blast a "disaster beyond measure." Diab, who was appointed prime minister in January after a popular uprising brought down the previous government, berated Lebanon's ruling political elite for fostering what he called "an apparatus of corruption bigger than the state." The announcement followed days of violent protests demanding culpability from the country's leaders for the part their alleged negligence and corruption playing a part in the devastating tragedy.



According to BBC, in an impassioned speech, Diab said his government had "gone to great lengths to lay out a road map to save the country". However, corruption in Lebanon was "bigger than the state" itself, and "a very thick and thorny wall separates us from change; a wall fortified by a class that is resorting to all dirty methods in order to resist and preserve its gains," he stated. "They knew that we pose a threat to them and that the success of this government means a real change in this long-ruling class whose corruption has asphyxiated the country."



"Today we follow the will of the people in their demand to hold accountable those responsible for the disaster that has been in hiding for seven years, and their desire for real change," Diab added. Comparing last week's explosion to an "earthquake that rocked the country," he said: "We have decided to stand with the people." President Michel Aoun has asked the government to stay on in a caretaker capacity until a new cabinet is formed but deciding on a new prime minister is unlikely to be a smooth or quick process.



BBC Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman pointed out that the process involves the same sectarian politics at the root of protesters' discontent. As per Lebanon's complex political system, power is shared between leaders representing the country's different religious groups. Moreover, a number of warlords who entered politics following the end of the 1975-1990 civil war still control large parts of the country's political, economic, and social sectors. This entrenched system has often been blamed for corruption in the country and remains unchanged even as the nation sets about finding its third prime minister in less than a year.




Meanwhile, officials estimate that the explosion — caused by the detonation of 2750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely at the port for years — caused more than $3 billion of damage and that the country's collective economic losses may amount to $15 billion. This comes on top of a growing banking crisis that has pushed families into poverty and hunger. "The economy was already a disaster and now I have no way of making money again," Eli Abi Hanna, whose house and car-repair shop were destroyed in the blast, told Daily Mail. "It was easier to make money during the civil war. The politicians and the economic disaster have ruined everything."



Citizens doubt change is possible in the country. "It won't work, it's just the same people. It's a mafia," said Antoinette Baaklini, an employee of an electricity company that was demolished in the blast. University student Marilyne Kassis expressed similar sentiments, saying: "It will always be the same. It is just a political game, nothing will change." According to NPR, Maha Yahya, the director of the Carnegie Middle East Center, the best-case scenario for moving forward is naming an independent prime minister who would undertake economic reforms and "put together an economic and financial rescue plan, but also to prepare for elections next year."



"You need to explain to people why they're going through this. And those that are responsible will be held accountable," Yahya said. "And you have to show them the way out. You need to show them there's light at the end of the tunnel. And given all the questions around the political legitimacy of the current political class, you give them a way to vote them out and vote whoever they think now represents them in."

More Stories on Scoop