The Lebanese government’s resignation Monday drew mixed reactions among Beirut’s residents after days of mass protests and the catastrophic port explosion that killed more than 150 people and injured over 6,000.
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A few hundred protesters gathered Monday afternoon outside Nijmeh Square – the seat of Lebanon’s parliament. Dozens threw rocks and hurled fireworks over the barrier surrounding the square, prompting security forces to hit back with tear gas.
In the evening, Diab bowed to pressure and announced his resignation in a televised speech, saying, “corruption is bigger than the state.”
Immediately following Diab’s speech, celebratory fireworks and gunshots were heard in Beirut’s Tariq al-Jadideh, a stronghold of former premier Saad Hariri.
“It was a failing, useless government … what did they achieve? The explosion that he [Diab] knew about and did not alert the authorities?” Mohammad al-Turk, a resident of the area, told Al Arabiya English.
Beirut’s explosion last Tuesday has left dozens missing and an estimated 300,000 homeless. The blast happened after a hangar housing 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate caught fire.
Some residents of Tariq al-Jadideh expressed their wish to see Hariri back as prime minister.
“Everyone loves him [Hariri], even the international community. He is our leader and we’re all with him,” Adnan al-Tawil said.
Hariri had led a national unity government until his resignation in October 2019, following the start of the October 17 uprising.
Other residents of Tariq al-Jadideh were not so keen on Hariri’s return, saying he “tried [to reform] but did not succeed.”
In Beirut’s southern suburbs, a Hezbollah stronghold, residents were against Diab’s resignation, saying the resigned PM was not given a chance to implement reforms.
“The man has been working. If it were for someone else, the country would have collapsed,” a resident of the suburbs who refused to give his name, told Al Arabiya English.
“Hassan Diab was not given a chance like that given to Saad Hariri,” he said, saying he believed Hariri would likely be named premier again.
Mohammad Hijazi, a supporter of the October 17 uprising, said Diab’s government was “doomed from the beginning, and no one took it seriously.”
The government’s resignation, he said, was not surprising.
“It is also clear the political powers in Lebanon are trying their hardest to pin all the blame on this government, even though they are the puppet masters,” Hijazi told Al Arabiya English.
Hijazi also speculated that Hariri would be renamed premier, pushing the revolution to reignite “in full force.”
“The aim here is not for the government to resign and we get a new one, the aim for a complete overhaul of the political system and get rid of the systemic corruption at every level,” he added.
A large part of Diab’s resignation speech was directed at “some” who he said sought “to score political points, deliver populist electoral discourse, and demolish the lingering State’s presence.”
Diab’s resignation was later accepted by President Michel Aoun, who asked the current government to stay on in a caretaker capacity until a new government is formed. This is the third government under Aoun since he was elected in 2016.