Beirut, Lebanon – Lebanon’s new government won a confidence vote in parliament on Monday, after promising to quickly resume the International Monetary Fund (IMF) rescue talks and launch a series of reforms to pull the country out of the deepening economic crisis .
Some 85 lawmakers gave their vote of confidence to Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s government, while 15 voted against.
One hundred of the 117 possible parliamentarians attended Monday’s session, which lasted more than eight hours. Among those absent was former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who heads the Future Movement.
Lebanon has 128 MPs, but eight have resigned and three deceased have not yet been replaced.
Mikati and his new government met with lawmakers at the UNESCO Palace, the makeshift building of the country’s parliament in Beirut. The session started almost an hour later than expected due to the power cuts that regularly plague Lebanon.
“Our government has emerged to light a candle in this deep darkness and light a torch of hope and determination that we are able to combine our most sincere efforts for this beloved country,” Mikati said.
Mikati, who took office earlier this month promising to start talks with the IMF and release billions of dollars in aid, has managed to give Lebanon its first full government after 13 months of political paralysis .
Ahead of Monday’s vote, the multibillion-dollar prime minister presented lawmakers with his government’s nine-page political statement.
He pledged that his government of 24 ministers would adopt a series of economic and structural reforms, and pledged to tackle chronic power outages, address shortages of food, fuel and medicine, and tackle the endemic corruption and put an end to unnecessary government spending.
President Nabih Berri asked Mikati not to read the entire statement, fearing that the power would be cut again before the end of the session.
The United Nations recently estimated that nearly three quarters of the Lebanese population live in poverty. The World Bank has warned that the country’s economic crisis ranks among the three worst the world has seen in the past 150 years.
Dressings vs significant changes
Since Lebanon first sank into crisis in October 2019, the country’s leaders have failed to present a credible economic reform plan that is a prerequisite for releasing billions of dollars in aid.
But many experts believe Mikati will struggle to make meaningful changes and that at best Lebanon is considering “band-aid” solutions that do not address the underlying causes of its current crisis and put the country on the back burner. a more solid economic base.
In addition to a handful of independent MPs, the Lebanese Christian Forces party was the only major political party in Lebanon that did not give a vote of confidence.
Lebanese Forces MK Sethrida Geagea said she could not “bet” on Mikati’s government to implement comprehensive reforms, given that parliamentary elections are next May, which means a new government will need to be trained shortly thereafter.
“The current government is temporary and is meant to be short-lived,” Geagea told parliament, referring to the upcoming parliamentary elections in less than a year. “At best, he would handle the crisis. “
Meanwhile, the international community continues to offer development assistance on condition that Lebanon implements reforms to end wasteful spending and corruption. The European Parliament recently threatened to sanction officials involved in corruption and obstructing reforms.
Feras Abdallah, a 28-year-old architect, told Al Jazeera that he is not too convinced the new ministers can bring real change, but he hopes they can at least take steps to alleviate the very crisis. urgent fuel and medicine in the country.
“I just hope they will make this country a place where we can live without having to suffer every step of the way,” Abdallah said.
Aline Fleihan, a political activist from the opposition group Li Haqqi, is not so optimistic, telling Al Jazeera that the Mikati government represents the “system that caused the collapse of the country.”
“Mikati’s government is controlled by the banks, the central bank and the oligarchs,” she said. “So his solution to the financial crisis will be based on helping them escape the crisis and making the people pay for their losses. “