Lebanon: the state, ungovernable monster

Editorial of the “World”. In a state, power rests on institutions, the functioning of which is regulated by a constitution. In a regime, institutions and Constitution mask the real holder of power: a family, an army or a party. We must keep this distinction in mind when we are interested in the Lebanese case.

With its tumultuous political life, its abundant media landscape and its combative civil society, Lebanon a priori has little to do with the two regimes that surround it, Egypt and Syria. Two petrified countries, placed under the yoke of a military man for the first (Marshal-President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi) and of a clan for the second (the line of Assad).

However, Lebanon ceased to be a state. Power is more than ever in the hands of a cartel of community parties, where traditional notables, former warlords and businessmen coexist. A caste of dunces in public policy and geniuses in political politics. Concerned mainly by their retention in power, they have developed an art of obstructing initiatives likely to harm their interests which borders on a masterpiece.

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The current battle over the forensic audit of the Banque du Liban (BDL) provides an edifying example. The presidency and the government support this project, intended to shed light on the abyssal hole in the Lebanese financial sector. But the “banking party”, which fears being swept away in the debacle, is doing everything to prevent this truth operation. With its relays in Parliament, in the media and even within the executive, the politico-financial oligarchy can achieve its ends.

Hezbollah turns a blind eye to corruption

Burying the audit would be to put an end to the country’s economic recovery, at least in the medium term. Its achievement is one of the conditions set by the IMF and donors to replenish the country’s coffers. But the “deep state” is stronger than these considerations. This is how Lebanon functions as a regime. The reality of power resides outside institutions.

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This regime, unlike the model in force in the region, has two heads. This is what makes it so resilient. Alongside the financial oligarchy, there is Hezbollah, the other parallel power. The pro-Iranian Shiite movement, half militia and half party, has learned to finance itself outside the banking circuits. He is not directly involved in the country’s financial crash, which greatly affects its base. But, in solidarity with some of its allies who are, Hezbollah is keeping quiet. It turns a blind eye to corruption and, in return, the oligarchy turns a blind eye to its guns. Give and take.

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This is how Lebanon has become an ungovernable monster. For nearly three decades, the international community has come to terms with this sinister system. She even financed it, by organizing fundraising conferences, accompanied by vague promises of reform that the country’s leaders were quick to forget once their checks were pocketed.

This situation seems to end. Western chanceries are at their wit’s end. French President Emmanuel Macron hinted at it in his catilinary at the end of September, in which he slammed the “Villainous system” which takes place in Beirut. But the ruling class continues to act as if nothing has happened. She persists in her atavistic quirks, predation and avoidance. At this rate, Lebanon will soon no longer arouse nervousness but discouragement, boredom, polite disinterest. The worst punishment for a country that once fascinated the world.

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