On August 4, 2020 a massive blast rocked Beirut, leaving at least 178 dead and over 6,500 injured. It was triggered by the explosion of 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate stored in warehouse 12 at the port of Beirut for over six years.
Despite repeated warning, Lebanese officials had ignored multiple reports from port authorities and security forces about the presence of the chemical and the danger it posed.
Calls for resignations of the Cabinet and Members of Parliament rang out from the streets. While now-former Prime Minister Hassan Diab and his Cabinet would step down a week later, only eight MPs have so far resigned.
One of those MPs was Paula Yacoubian, an independent MP.
“I think it should be clear for the Lebanese people who is the mafia and who is the opposition,” Yacoubian told Al Arabiya English, referring to the traditional ruling elite.
She continued “right now they go into government and they pretend to be in opposition, they take ministries, they take the presidency, and they pretend to be the opposition. So people are sometimes lost. I think it should be clear who is the opposition.”
Despite the symbolism of her resignation and the seven others, it was not enough to trigger the dissolution of the parliament. Over half of the 128-member Parliament would've needed to resign for it to fall.
Yacoubian said it was time to tell the political class that no one wanted to continue be “part of the mafia, a false witness in a parliament that does nothing.”
“These people and parties that didn’t resign are responsible for all the failure. We should not be in the same picture with them. The resignation is the first step to [create] a big coalition opposition.”
Following the explosion, demonstrations and riots swept through central Beirut. The angry crowd denounced the corruption and mismanagement of the political class that caused the blast. Lebanon had already been facing an economic collapse after the government defaulted on its $1.2 billion eurobond payment last March. Recession had since reached double digit figures, while unemployment before the explosion stood at over 30 percent. The Lebanese pound has rapidly lost its value.
While the streets have called for early elections and a new government, the political elite have begun backdoor discussions to again ensure their hold on power.
The Parliament majority comprised of Shia Hezbollah and the Amal movements as well as the Christian Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) began negotiations with the predominantly Sunni Future Movement headed by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri as well as the Druze Progressive Socialist Party (PSP). Where Hezbollah and the FPM are allies, Future and PSP are opposition parties.
Talk of a new national unity government, potentially led by Hariri, has caused concern as many view such a proposition as a continuation of years of failed leadership.
“The next government is going to be the same mafia government, they will find new puppets. Hezbollah will be running the show as usual, and unfortunately this is happening with the French blessing,” Yacoubian said.
She continued, “I think this the only place [French President Emmanuel] Macron is left with influence. The only place where Macron still has some leverage is Lebanon. So he came here for a diplomatic win… (But) Lebanese people need the international community to delegitimize this corrupt Junta.”
Yaacoubian said that since she resigned resumed work on her Dafa in-kind donation campaign, targeting families in need.
“Dafa is my oasis of peace,” she said. “This is where I feel useful, this where I feel I am achieving something for the people, where I see all the volunteers working together, seeing the generosity of the Lebanese people. Poor People helping poor people rebuilding their houses.”
Dafa has supported more than 250,000 under-privileged families since 2013. Today it is supporting families that were directly affected by the tragic Beirut blast.