Angry Lebanese have demanded the removal of what they see as a corrupt ruling class to blame for the country’s woes, adding that the government’s resignation on Monday did not come near to addressing the tragedy of last week’s Beirut explosion.
A protest with the slogan “Bury the authorities first” was planned near the port, where highly explosive material stored for years exploded on August 4, killing at least 163 people, injuring 6,000 and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab, announcing his cabinet’s resignation, blamed endemic corruption for the explosion, the biggest in Beirut’s history and which compounded a deep financial crisis that has collapsed the currency, paralysed the banking system and forced up prices.
“I said before that corruption is rooted in every juncture of the state but I have discovered that corruption is greater than the state,” he said, blaming the political elite for blocking reforms.
Talks with the International Monetary Fund have stalled amid a dispute between the government, banks and politicians over the scale of vast financial losses.
For many Lebanese, the explosion was the last straw in a protracted crisis over the collapse of the economy, corruption, waste and dysfunctional government.
“It does not end with the government’s resignation,” said the protest flyer circulating on social media.
“There is still [President Michel] Aoun, [Parliament Speaker Nabih] Berri and the entire system.”
Many people in Lebanon, and on social media, felt Monday’s announcement by Diab would do little to change the political situation.
“It’s a good thing that the government resigned. But we need new blood or it won’t work,” silversmith Avedis Anserlian told the Reuters news agency in front of his demolished shop.
“I don’t think it [the government’s resignation] will make a difference. All the ministers in Lebanon are just a face. Behind that are the militias who control everything,” Rony Lattouf, a shop owner in Beirut, told Al Jazeera.
“It’s these militias that decide on things in Lebanon. People have to make a powerful move to remove them,” he added, standing in front of his collapsed shop not far from the port.
In my humble opinion, i really think the resignation of the government won't solve or do any better for the people of lebanon, because the real corrupt elites are still ruling from their places.
— Obada Odeh (@ObadaOdeh5) August 10, 2020
Aoun is now required to consult with parliamentary blocs on who the next prime minister should be, and is obliged to designate the candidate with the most support.
Forming a government amid factional rifts has been daunting in the past. With growing public discontent and the crushing financial crisis, it could be difficult to find someone willing to be prime minister.
Picking up the pieces
Beirut residents, meanwhile, continued to pick up the pieces as search operations for the missing continued.
Officials have said the blast could have caused losses of $15bn, a bill Lebanon cannot afford.
Speaking from Beirut, Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith said as the political situation develops, people were still concerned about the devastation to their homes and business.
Ihsan Mokdad, a contractor, surveyed a gutted building in Gemmayze, a district a few hundred metres from the port.
“As the prime minister said, the corruption is bigger than the state,” said Mokdad.
“They’re all a bunch of crooks. I didn’t see one MP [member of Parliament] visit this area. MPs should have come here in large numbers to raise morale.”