Why It’s So Hard To Fix Lebanon’s Broken Government
Lebanon's fractured politics is a blessing and a curse for the country.
French involvement does not alleviate the Lebanese predicament—it enables and perpetuates fracturing. External intervention is never perceived as a positive or neutral development. It is a boom for some and a bust for others. Considering the selfishness and domains of elites and communities, external intervention is challenged or opposed. This behavior manifested in the failed attempt to form a Lebanese government in September. In the face of a looming French deadline, the two prominent Shia political parties—Harakat Amal and Hezbollah—demanded retention of the finance ministry. It is a ministry that representatives from either party have controlled for ten years.
France’s willingness to continue to accommodate Lebanon after the missed deadline further contributes to perpetuating Lebanon’s fractured nature and stymies progress. Lebanese politicians are adept at ad-hoc, temporary, and/or partial solutions. All indications suggest that when the “nonpartisan” specialist government is formed, it will be old wine in a new bottle.
Similar to the previous technocratic government, the new government will express the intention to confront and/or overcome the fractured nature of Lebanon by fully implementing or enforcing the necessary reforms. However, like its predecessors, it will ultimately lack the resolve. Under the temporary façade of change, the donor conference will eventually occur. Like previous international donor conferences for Lebanon—Paris I, II, III, and IV—pledges will be made, but the money will not be delivered or delivered in full. The reality of Lebanon’s fractured nature will reappear. Lebanon’s predicament will endure.
Nowhere to go
Mountains of garbage on the streets failed to galvanize an enduring movement in 2018. A massive industrial explosion on August 4 in the midst of a debilitating economic crisis is not the straw that broke the camel’s back. Another civil war is not on the horizon. The French-led initiative to “rescue” Lebanon is not the incentive many thought.
Fracturing is incapacitating Lebanon by preventing a change in the status quo. Unless Lebanon’s fractured nature can be overcome, Lebanon will continue to go nowhere for the foreseeable future.
Eric Bordenkircher, Ph.D., is a research fellow at UCLA’s Center for Middle East Development. His twitter handle is @UCLA_Eagle. The views represented in this piece are his own and do not necessarily represent the position of UCLA or the Center for Middle East Development.