"In Lebanon, community power has fallen"

Former Lebanese Minister of Labor, economist Charbel Nahas calls for a new executive who would have full powers.

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During a demonstration in Beirut on October 26th. Hussein Malla / AP

The Lebanese economist Charbel Nahas, 65, former Minister of Telecommunications and Labor, is the current director of Citizens in a State, an association that aspires to build a "Secular, democratic, just and effective state". This great left-wing reformist voice, engaged in the cedar country's protest, is part of an informal group of intellectuals, activists and experts who are trying to prepare for a possible political transition.

What are we seeing? A giant blow of mouth? A revolt ? A revolution ?

We are witnessing the celebration of the end of a regime. Lebanese society submitted after the civil war (1975-1990) to a mode of power that is exhausted because the essential condition for its operation – draining a growing amount of billions of dollars every year – is down. Artificial survival has been assured for four years. The French government participated in this effort with the ceremonial of Cedar (donor conference in Lebanon, April 2018, during which 11 billion dollars were promised to him under conditions of reforms).

You mean that power has already fallen?

That's what the Lebanese shout in the street. What is happening here does not look like what happened in the Arab Spring countries. These diets worked badly, but they worked. Here, power has fallen all alone. It is not the protesters who created the financial and political crisis, it is the opposite. In May 2018, people voted nearly 90% for government parties. But today, they are no longer enlisted. Community power has fallen. People say it in their own way, with jokes, sometimes rude. They also come up with an alternative. And this alternative, in our view, must be a secular state.

What was the trigger for the movement?

In this very critical moment, idiots have made arrangements with incredible insolence. I think of telecommunications minister Mohamed Choucair. He thought he could raise 240 million dollars (215 million euros), by taxing the calls on WhatsApp, while fifteen days earlier, he had used $ 120 million of public money to install, in an upscale downtown building, offices of a mobile phone network owned by the State. This act of provocation has elicited a huge popular reaction. It's as if Mohamed Choucair had removed the pin from a spring.


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