DUBAI: Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab sounded the alarm Tuesday, calling on the international community to help stave off a “social explosion.”
Speaking during a televised address, Diab warned that Lebanon was on the brink of a disaster that will see its “repercussions reverberate outside the country.”
Diab, who has been heading a cabinet in a caretaker capacity for more than 10 months, said any government would need the support of “friendly nations to save the country from the predicament it currently finds itself in.”
Lebanon has been without a fully functioning government since Diab resigned in the immediate aftermath of the deadly Beirut port explosion on Aug 4, 2020 that killed over 200 people.
In October, three-time premier Saad Hariri was designated to form a new government after securing the votes of 65 MPs.
However, the government has yet to see the light of day amid political infighting between local political players, including Hariri and President Michel Aoun.
The crisis-hit country’s constitution stipulates that both men must agree on the makeup of the government in unison.
“The Lebanese have been patient and are bearing the burden of this long wait. But their patience is running out as their suffering mounts,” Diab said.
More than 60 percent of the population has fallen below the poverty line while the national currency has lost more than 91 percent of its value, making most basic commodities inaccessible.
Food insecurity is rampant while fuel shortages have hit hospitals, bakeries and households.
Two of Lebanon’s four powerplants are currently running on sparse fuel supplies, with the state power utility, Électricité du Liban, warning it would have to switch them off if its waning reserves of gas oil run out.
Meanwhile, the shortages have also made their way to the state-owned telecom company Ogero, which is struggling to keep its generators and stations online.
To avoid an internet blackout, MPs and Ogero are attempting to secure additional funds to secure enough fuel to keep services operational, MP Hussein Hajj Hassan said Monday.
Hariri, who returned to Beirut over the weekend, met with Speaker Nabih Berri yesterday to discuss the latest developments surrounding the government negotiations.
According to sources familiar with the negotiations, Hariri is poised to step down if the stalemate persists and no breakthrough is found.
“If he does step down, it’ll be done in a way that doesn’t hurt his popularity with his base given the upcoming parliamentary elections,” the source said.
Lebanon is scheduled to hold parliamentary elections in May 2022, more than two and half years since mass protests erupted against the ruling political class.