Antoine Kanaan

Bravo, PM designate Najib Mikati has formed a government. Will Lebanon finally have leadership, or will it not? Will we start reforms, or will we not? Will we try to salvage the situation, or will we not? Is this a bandage government, or is it not? This might surprise you, but the formation of a government under Mikati might not be a good thing. In fact, such a government would doom us to our misery. Mikati’s government effectively means that all hope for Lebanon is lost.

Indeed, let us establish that the fate of our people is at stake. We are suffering, and many of us are dying. The Lebanese Lira has lost all value, we are humiliated at the gas stations, and many no longer have the internet required to read this article. Many others still have left the country in an exodus of biblical proportions. All our friends are gone or going to be gone – those that remain are the unlucky few. Truly, we are a sinking ship without a captain.

Simply put, no leadership is much better than terrible leadership. Consider that the root cause of our problem has much to do with two factors: corrupt government policies and deteriorating diplomatic ties due to Hezbollah’s domination. To solve the problem, the government needs to try and solve these two factors.

Why then is a Mikati government such bad news?

First, Mikati’s government needs to [internally] implement positive, proactive, and fundamental reforms to operations such that it minimizes corruption and stimulates positive economic growth (or to at least ebb the contraction). The public debt has to be restructured, smuggling into Syria has to be stopped, and many public institutions need to be privatized for us to even have any hope of coming out of this crisis.  These include the telecommunications and energy sectors (as a start).

Second, Mikati’s government needs to distance itself from Hezbollah and the Axis of Resistance. The Arab world and much of the Western world is much opposed to this Axis led by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Lebanon’s creditors are predominantly western nations, institutions, and persons. Why anger them? Surely we have no need of the extra Captagon. 

Except, we have angered them. PM Diab’s government was widely seen as Hezbollah (read: Iran) controlled. President Aoun and Speaker Berri are both staunch Hezbollah allies, so can you really blame foreigners for thinking that the country is under Hezbollah’s control? This has caused our external diplomatic relations to plummet. In today’s international politics, no country lives in a vacuum. We are all living in a globalized world, and we need to cultivate good ties with other states. Hezbollah’s hegemony over Lebanese politics has destroyed any chance of that. As long as Hezbollah continues to be a major player and given political backing from powerful Christian and Sunni figures, then we will continue to have no worthwhile international relations to speak of.

Unfortunately, Mikati’s government is poised to aggravate our problems rather than work towards solving them. Even if Mikati were willing (which is unlikely), he would be unable to work towards privatizing the energy and telecommunications sectors. This of course is through no fault of his own – President Aoun’s FPM are the ones responsible for both these failures, and as President he simply won’t agree to a government where the FPM does not take over these two ministries. The cross-border smuggling with Syria is an even more politically entangled issue and it is doubtful that Mikati will even attempt to broach the issue. Realistically, we can expect Mikati to approach government functions with as much diligence as his first rodeo back in 2011 – that is, without any diligence at all. Let us not forget that he was a part of the problem to begin with. How can we expect those that caused our problems to solve them? Mikati will at most engage in delaying action that will lengthen our suffering while not solving any of our fundamental problems.

What about Hezbollah? Well, Mikati is well known for his support of Hezbollah. He will invariably offer Hezbollah a Sunni political cover to match President Aoun’s Christian political cover, thereby all but legitimizing them and their control over the Lebanese state. Is this really what we want? Is this really who we want to associate ourselves with? Do we really want to sign off our political autonomy and our national sovereignty to the Islamic Republic of Iran? The free Lebanese do not, and yet this is exactly what Mikati will do.

In brief, a Mikati government is bad news – not only will it entrench us in Hezbollah’s lap, but it will offer no real solutions to the socioeconomic crisis plaguing the country. Lebanon will continue to suffer with or without a Mikati led government, the difference being that it will suffer for much longer under Mikati. Mikati will aggravate our diplomatic and political problems while simply not solving our socioeconomic problems. Lebanon is in freefall, and instead of hitting rock bottom as soon as possible (which will minimize our suffering and allow us to rebuild) it will under Mikati reach it much later (but it will reach it anyway).

Mikati wants to give Lebanon life support just up until it reaches the Parliamentary elections. This will be a watershed moment in Lebanese history, a great moment that will cement our political future. All the political parties are placing huge bets on this round of elections, because it is the first public elections after the October 17 Revolution. Will there be a parliamentary shakeup, or are we doomed? 

Well, if university elections are anything to go by, non-traditional political parties are expected to gain much in these elections. The increased number of young voters, greater public awareness and political responsibility (as a result of the revolution), and the votes of Lebanese Expats is also sure to make a positive difference. Furthermore, this new parliamentwill later on vote for a successor to President Aoun. These are decisive elections, and Lebanon’s one real chance at salvaging its dire situation. 

For once, the choice is in your hands, so vote and vote well.

رأي واحد حول “Focus: Why a Mikati Government is Terrible News

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