Mass resignations as Beirut blast repercussions intensify

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Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad submitted her resignation Sunday, a day after angry mass protests rocked central Beirut. Foreign minister Nassif Hitti resigned Monday, a day prior to the blast.

by Georgi Azar -Source: Annahar

Lebanese hold a candle light vigil near Beirut’s port in honour of the 160 victims who died following Tuesday’s blast (Annahar/Marc Mekhitarian)

BEIRUT: Cracks are beginning to show in Lebanon’s ruling class in the wake of this week’s deadly blast, with mass resignations and defections across the board.

Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad and Environment Minister Demianos Kattar submitted their resignation Sunday, a day after angry mass protests rocked central Beirut. “My children’s friends died in the blast,” Kattar reportedly told Prime Minister Hassan Diab.

Hours later, MP Michel Moawad announced his resignation, a day after the Kataeb party’s three legislators and independent MP Paula Yacoubian resigned in protest against the government.

“The system of weapons and the game of regional axes have highjacked the state,” Moawad said, in a clear reference to the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah. “Enough is enough,” he added.

Resignations also made their way to both the Future Movement and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt’s parliamentary Bloc.

“I am convinced that the current ruling class in Lebanon, with its executive and legislative aspects, no longer expresses the aspirations of the Lebanese people nor does it allow the change they aspire to,” MP Henry Helou said.

“I will submit my written resignation on Monday, hoping that this will open a window of hope for the Lebanese people who endure disaster after disaster,” he added.

This was echoed by Future Movement MP Dima Jamali, who announced her resignation moments earlier.

Legislator Marwan Hamadeh, another member of Jumblatt’s bloc, had resigned moments after the blast took place, citing his lack of confidence in the ruling class in the wake of the tragedy.

Prior to the explosion, Foreign minister Nassif Hitti also resigned, only to be replaced by former ambassador to Venezuela Charbel Wehbe hours later.

The Free Patriotic Movement’s parliamentary bloc, the largest after 2018’s sweeping victory, has also seen its numbers dwindle. MP Michel Daher announced his withdrawal from the bloc and called for the resignation of the government. MP Chamel Roukoz, a long time ally of President Michel Aoun and son-in-law, defected from the group in the wake of the initial protests that broke out in October 2019.

MP Neimat Freim, also part of the FPM’s “Strong Lebanon” bloc, announced his withdrawal from the bloc and suspended his participation in “parliamentary activity until there is a call to shorten parliament’s mandate and call for early parliamentary elections.”

Lebanese Forces Leader Samir Geagea took to Twitter, saying he is making “the necessary calls and making strenuous efforts to gather enough resignations to reach early parliamentary elections as soon as possible.”

Parliament can be dissolved through two means, either with a majority of resignations or the majority submitting a draft law seeking to shorten its term. As things currently stand, the Shiite duo Hezbollah and Amal, along with their Christian ally the FPM, control a majority in parliament.

The blast Tuesday was met with fury Saturday as protesters stormed government institutions and clashed for hours with security forces, who responded with heavy volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets.

One police officer was killed and dozens of people hurt in the confrontations, which played out in streets that were wrecked from Tuesday’s blast at the port that devastated much of the city and killed nearly 160 people. Nearly 6,000 people injured.

Speaking on Monday, a Lebanese military spokesperson announced the near end of search and rescue operations, signalling the almost none existent possibility of finding survivors alive. 20 people are still missing, with the smouldering heat and amount of time passed since the blast rendering the chances of survival extremely low.

— With AP

 

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