Power politics return to the fore in Lebanon

20 June 2023

MEED's July 2023 report on Lebanon also includes:

> GOVERNMENT: Political deadlock in Lebanon blocks reforms
> ECONOMY: No end in sight for Lebanon’s economic woes

 


Commentary
John Bambridge
Analysis editor

Lebanon is once again encumbered by a political deadlock that is obstructing essential reforms and governance. This time around, it is the lack of agreement on the appointment of a new president following the end of former President Michel Aoun’s term, which ended in October 2022. Since then, Beirut has had an interim government that is disempowered to make progress on the big issues. 

Support in parliament for new presidential candidates is split between Sleiman Frangieh, a Christian career politician who is favoured by Hezbollah and its allies, and Jihad Azour, an economist, former finance minister and current regional director at the IMF, who is favoured by other major blocs. 

The division makes it uncertain whether either candidate will be able to gain a majority vote and, assuming a president is elected, forming a consensus government could also prove challenging.

Lebanon’s overall economic situation is dire and experts are pessimistic about its prognosis. The collapse of the Lebanese pound had pushed much of the population into poverty and led to the formation of an increasingly cash-based, dollarised grey market economy.

The economic reforms agreed with the IMF have meanwhile not been brought into effect, returning the country to the perennial question of whether Beirut’s outgoing political class has the necessary will to enact the required reform. 

The prospect of further bailouts or financial assistance from third parties is also uncertain. Saudi Arabia, which has previously provided financial aid, is less willing to offer support now due to the strong influence of Hezbollah in the government. Lebanon’s hopes for oil and gas exploration also hold no potential as a near-term panacea to Beirut’s fiscal woes. 

The outlook for change in the short term is bleak, with the prevailing political chaos and lack of consensus raising the prospect of no further movement towards reforms. Resolution of the crisis will require Lebanon’s political elite to find common ground on working towards the stabilisation of the country, and so far, that has proved elusive.


MEED's July 2023 report on the Levant region also includes:

JORDAN: 
Jordan economy holds a steady course
Jordan's oil and gas sector battles sluggish phase
Jordan sustains utility infrastructure progress
Hospital boost for Jordan construction

SYRIA
Syria comes in from the cold
Al-Assad edges closer to the mainstream

Damascus counts the cost of reconstruction


 

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John Bambridge
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