BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced the resignation of his government Monday, almost one week after the devastating blast that tore through the capital, and as political and popular pressure mounted.
“I announce the resignation of my government ... May God protect Lebanon,” Diab said during a televised address to the Lebanese.
“The system of corruption is greater than the state,” Diab said, adding that "one of the examples of corruption exploded at the Beirut Port.”
Diab said political forces should have cooperated to help Lebanon and its people, but that some are living in another time and do not care about what happened, all they care about is scoring political points and giving populist speeches.
The resigned prime minister said that the Lebanese people wanted change but "between us and change there is a very thick wall."
"The biggest paradox is that several weeks after the formation of this government they [the political class] tried to throw their sins on the Cabinet and hold it responsible for the collapse," Diab said.
He later formally submitted his letter of resignation to President Michel Aoun at Baabda Palace.
The current government will remain in a caretaker capacity until a new one is formed.
Aoun is to set a date for binding parliamentary consultations to appoint a new prime minister, who will then be tasked with forming a new government.
As Diab was gearing up to resign, protesters gathered in Martyrs' Square, albeit in lower numbers compared to Saturday's protests, and dozens clashed with riot police near Parliament.
“We’re just going to be stuck in a loop. That’s it,” one protester told The Daily Star in Martyrs' Square after the resignation was announced.
On the ground, many protesters were also confused on whether he had actually stepped down.
“This is the first step of the journey we are to embark on ... There is much more ahead,” a 19-year-old girl protesting in Martyrs’ Square told The Daily Star.
“We will rebuild Beirut and make it better than it was. And we will free it from the animals ruling it,” she added.
“You cannot blame his government because they’re fairly new. But obviously the corruption is everywhere so he cannot be the only one responsible,” said Wissam, 46, a father of two, as he stood next to his son.
"We only hope for a better life. There are so many people injured, so many people suffering – we just want to live," he exclaimed.
Asked about the prospect of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri being reappointed, he stated that he believed Hariri "was not the solution," as Lebanon needed "ordinary people from the civilian population who can stand up and feel what we are going though."
"Hariri is somewhere else," he added.
Diab’s announcement came after the information and environment ministers previously resigned individually, threatening the collapse of the government as per the Lebanese Constitution if five more had resigned.
According to local media, Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri were not pleased with Diab’s announcement during a speech Saturday that he would propose holding early parliamentary elections, as he had not informed them or discussed the issue with them.
Diab was appointed as prime minister in late December after nationwide protests toppled the previous Cabinet, and formed a one-sided government in January backed by the Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah, the Amal Movement and the Marada Movement.
He had promised the Lebanese that he would form a government of “independent technocrats,” however it was evident during countless instances that ministers answered to political parties.
During his eight-month term, Lebanon’s economy severely declined, the Lebanese pound devalued over 80 percent, poverty and inflation rates rose, the country defaulted on its sovereign debt for the first time in history, the coronavirus pandemic hit Lebanon and, this week, a devastating blast hit Beirut killing 160 people.
An economic collapse was looming when Diab became prime minister, and decades of mismanagement and corruption had started to plunge Lebanon into a multitude of crises.
During Aoun’s term as president, three governments have come to power and resigned so far: Saad Hariri twice, and now Hassan Diab.
Eun Wardl and Houshig Kaymakamian