BEIRUT: Many Lebanese expressed apprehension about the new Cabinet formed over the weekend, saying they were concerned that it may not be able to do away with endemic corruption or assuage the country’s worsening security situation. Hussein Nasreddine, who hails from the troubled northeastern town of Hermel, declared that not one of the ministers was good enough for the country.
Taking a Sunday stroll with his family in bustling Hamra, Nasreddine told The Daily Star that his hope for a viable government in Lebanon was shattered years ago.
“These few months will make no difference,” he added, saying the new Cabinet would be short-lived, as the presidential election gets underway.
The 24-member Cabinet was formed Saturday, bringing together figures from Lebanon’s rival political groups and ending months of political deadlock.
Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s government is set to face a number of challenges including Lebanon’s deteriorating security situation as well as the upcoming presidential election, slated for May 25.
“They will not agree on a ministerial statement, unless there is an American-Iranian agreement,” Nasreddine said, as his wife nodded vehemently in agreement.
Those two foreign powers, he said, are the ones truly governing Lebanon.
“The Cabinet is useless, be it now or in a couple of months,” Nasreddine added.
Others who spoke with The Daily Star echoed Nasreddine’s sentiments, dismissing the idea that the new government would be efficient. Many said they were not keeping tabs on the issue and didn’t consider that it would have a major impact on the country.
Rania Saraeb, a young mother from the southern town of Tibnin, could not be more pessimistic. Standing near the water at Zaitunay Bay, she described the new Cabinet as “a total failure.”
“It will not be better than the previous one, there has never been a Cabinet that has taken any kind of real action,” she said, adding that the 24 members of the new Cabinet were only adept at “talking.”
“The members are only looking after their own personal interest, they don’t think about the people,” she said.
But while Saraeb voiced concern about the country’s ominous security situation, her approach was to live with the status quo rather than get angry about it, she said.
“Things would have probably been better without it [the Cabinet], either way we are going on with life,” Saraeb said with a shrug.
Not far down the bay’s strip, Samer Abu Hasan laughed at the idea that one should have expectations that the newly formed government would accomplish anything substantial.
“Since 1943 up until now, things have been the same,” he said, claiming that all Cabinet ministers were “feudalists” looking to make money from citizens.
“Different people, same corruption,” he said.
According to Abu Hasan, who hails from Aley, Lebanese citizens are consistently exploited, whether there is a government in place or not.
“They always scare us with their talk of political stages, but we are being stepped on either way,” he said.
Concerns were also raised on social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook, with many poking fun at the notion that this government would have effects on the ground.
“Pity a nation that a normal thing like forming its #government is considered an achievement,” one tweet read.
“Of course it’s about sharing the pie, primarily & not about qualifications ever,” another read.
“It walks like a government, it quacks like a government. Let us hope (against hope) that it will be a government!” yet another read.
Not everyone, however, was as skeptical. A surprisingly significant amount of Lebanese also voiced hope that the new government might be able to ease the country’s tensions, albeit many were hesitant about whether this could materialize.
Such was the case with Georgette Ohanessian, a housewife and mother of two who told The Daily Star that it was too early to determine whether the newly formed government would have any kind of positive impact on Lebanese affairs.
“It is better than not having a government,” she said with a hearty laugh at Beirut’s marina. “We have to wait and see what it will do.”
According to Ohanessian, the deteriorating security situation and the conflict in neighboring Syria necessitated that the country’s leaders be able to make crucial decisions.
Abu Ali, a taxi driver waiting on Hamra’s main street, told The Daily Star he chose to remain optimistic, especially in such hard times.
“God willing,” he said. “It is better than nothing right now; the situation calls for a government.”
Down the street, Ahmad Harb stood outside of his perfume shop calling for customers on a slow Sunday. He expressed high hopes that the new government would put an end to the series of car bombs plaguing the country, particularly in Beirut’s southern suburbs and the northeastern city of Hermel.
He added that he hoped the Cabinet would improve the country’s ailing economy and the tourism sector, both of which have been suffering since the Syrian crisis erupted almost three years ago.
In the southern city of Sidon, markets and bazaars regained some activity over the weekend.
For Malakah Nasser, who was pushing a stroller in the bustling souks, things were looking up.
“Thank God a government was formed; this has provided me with a kind of security, even if it is just an emotional one,” said Nasser, who hails from Mount Lebanon’s Iqlim al-Kharroub.
Similarly, Asma Qassem, a citizen of Tyre, said the newly formed government gave hope to south Lebanon.
“Politicians should realize that the people are united, so let them get along or get out,” she said.
Others, like Mohammad Sabbagh, however, voiced concern that Sidon would continue to be neglected by the new government.
Playing backgammon on Rafik Hariri Boulevard, Sabbagh said politicians needed to be reminded: “Sidon was part of the country, meaning we are from Lebanon, and it is not an island.” – With additional reporting by Mohammed Zaatari