Commentary

Government with conflicting agendas

Prime Minister Najib Mikati heads a ministerial council at the Grand Serail in Beirut, Sept. 13, 2021. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)

The Lebanese have good reasons to doubt the ability of the new Cabinet to save the rickety country, since the process that led to the formation of the government was identical to the previous ones, and the usual suspects who led the country to total collapse are still calling the shots in major decisions.

The blame game practiced for years by the bickering political groups is no longer working: Lebanese public opinion and the international communities are clear about who is responsible for the country’s demise.

The debate today is whether the new Cabinet should be given a chance, or it’s doomed to failure because it lacks the free will and the independence it claims to have.

It seems the international community is willing to extend a honeymoon to the government before judging its performance. Washington and Paris rushed to welcome the new government and linked their support to the government’s ability to introduce long-awaited reforms.

However, the people and the groups which took o the streets almost two years ago to protest the government corruption and incompetence are skeptical of the ability of the new Cabinet to bring about change because they are convinced, and rightly so, that those behind the country's miseries cannot be part of the solution.

On the surface, the Cabinet includes few ministers with the needed expertise, but the fact they were picked based on loyalty to leaders and not competence dashes any hope for change and will only introduce some cosmetic changes at best.

Meanwhile, Lebanese lining up at gas stations and worried about basic living conditions will cling to any glimmer of hope. The new government may achieve some quick results because of low expectations but it is a matter of time before the traditional problems will implode from within the Cabinet.

It is no secret that the government is serving several conflicting agendas. The camp of the president and his political heir apparent, his son in law, wants to save the remaining time of the presidency and secure the political future of Gebran Bassil as a major player in Lebanese politics and a contender for the presidency, while Prime Minister Najib Mikati wants to be a hero and claim leadership of the Sunnis.

As for other leaders represented in the government, mainly Hezbollah and Amal, they want to restore the minimum normalcy in a country they control and avoid a major political backlash. But for now, the Cabinet has a tall order and low expectations may be the only factor working in its favor. The honeymoon may not last a full month given immediate problems facing the country. Without direct international support, guidance and close oversight, the Lebanese should not hold high hopes or keep calling for major changes.

 

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