Thu | Sep 24, 2020

Lebanese PM steps down in wake of Beirut explosion, protests

Published:Monday | August 10, 2020 | 12:41 PM
In this March 7, 2020 file photo released by the Lebanese Government, Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab, gives a speech at the Government House in Beirut, Lebanon. (Dalati Nohra/Lebanese Government via AP, File )

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon’s prime minister stepped down from his job on Monday in the wake of the disastrous Beirut port explosion that triggered public fury, saying he has come to the conclusion that corruption in Lebanon is “bigger than the state.”

In a brief televised speech after three of his ministers resigned, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said that he is taking “a step back” so he can stand with the people “and fight the battle for change alongside them.”

“I declare today the resignation of this government. May God protect Lebanon,” he said, repeating the last phrase three times.

The move risks opening the way to dragged-out negotiations over a new Cabinet amid urgent calls for reform.

It follows a weekend of anti-government protests in the wake of the August 4 explosion in Beirut’s port that decimated the facility and caused widespread destruction, killing at least 160 people and injured about 6,000 others.

The moment typified Lebanon’s political dilemma. Since October, there have been mass demonstrations demanding the departure of the entire sectarian-based leadership over entrenched corruption, incompetence and mismanagement.

But the ruling oligarchy has held onto power for so long — since the end of the civil war in 1990 — that it is difficult to find a credible political figure not tainted by connections to them.

Diab blamed corrupt politicians who preceded him for the “earthquake” that has hit Lebanon.

Although Diab’s resignation had appeared inevitable after the catastrophe, he seemed unwilling to leave and only two days ago made a televised speech in which he offered to stay on for two months to allow for various factions to agree on a roadmap for reforms. But the pressure from within his own Cabinet proved to be too much.

Diab’s government was formed after his predecessor, Saad Hariri, stepped down in October in response to the demonstrations. It took months of bickering among the leadership factions before they settled on Diab.

Follow The Gleaner on Twitter and Instagram @JamaicaGleaner and on Facebook @GleanerJamaica. Send us a message on WhatsApp at 1-876-499-0169 or email us @onlinefeedback@gleanerjm.com or editors@gleanerjm.com.