For much of the last several decades, Lebanon has been wracked by instability and tangled up in the affairs of larger or more powerful neighbours. Its confessional political system, based on power sharing among its eighteen officially recognised ethno-religious groups, is arguably both the cause and the effect of recurrent strife, notably the 1975-1990 civil war. Today the elites who run the system are also implicated in ever-deepening state dysfunction and economic recession. Meanwhile, Lebanon is at risk of spillover from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Syrian war and regional turmoil, due partly to the rise of Hizbollah, the Shiite Islamist movement opposed to Israel and allied with Iran and the Syrian regime, as a political force. The country hosts hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees as well as nearly 1.5 million Syrians. Pending changes that would allow resolution of the outside conflicts, Crisis Group works to keep Lebanon insulated from their flare-ups, to seek durable solutions for refugees and to encourage structural reform that might alleviate the country's internal problems.
Barring an eleventh-hour compromise, Lebanon will soon be without a president. An extended vacancy could stall action needed to ease the country’s economic crisis, risking unrest. With outside help, politicians should strive to avert this outcome – and to find ameliorative measures for the interim.
Country entered presidential vacuum, which may persist indefinitely so long as political blocs fail to find compromise, while absence of new govt further impaired efforts to address economic crisis.
Country entered presidential vacuum, which could extend for months or years. Parliamentary blocs made no tangible progress on appointing replacement for outgoing President Michel Aoun, whose six-year term ended on 31 Oct. House Speaker Nabih Berri convened parliamentary voting sessions on 10, 17 and 24 Nov, but none made progress; Michel Moawad favoured by anti-Hizbollah camp in his best showing 10 Nov received 44 votes in first round, short of 86 required for outright first-round win, as pro-Hizbollah alliance continued to return blank votes and refrained from offering alternative candidate amid lack of agreement within bloc.
Presidential vacuum boded ill for forming empowered govt. Prospects of forming new govt without president’s election remained exceedingly dim, as politicians generally accept that caretaker govt exercising presidential prerogatives cannot approve new cabinet. Further weakening current caretaker administration, PM Mikati had late Oct announced that he will convene cabinet only “for urgent matters” during vacuum. Constant debates over presidential choices and constitutionality of govt activity could absorb most of political leadership’ already minimal policymaking capacity, allowing economic crisis to deepen.
State budget entered into force amid concern over worsening economic crisis. Country’s 2022 state budget 15 Nov came into effect, one of several International Monetary Fund (IMF) requirements to unlock potential financial aid package. Notably, budget ended long-defunct official exchange rate of 1,507.5 Lebanese pounds to $1 and adopted significantly higher exchange rates for customs (15,000 pounds for $1); ten-fold increase in customs fees could fuel another bout of inflation, thereby reducing purchasing power and increasing poverty amid soaring energy prices at onset of winter; measure also raised concern that projected state revenue will be less than anticipated. World Food Programme 22 Nov announced it had earmarked $5.4bn in food assistance for next three years, noting food prices are 16 times higher than Oct 2019, when Lebanon’s economic crisis became widely apparent.
It is in Hezbollah’s interest to have at least the outward appearance of a functioning political system [in Lebanon] where everyone is involved, including the Sunnis.
For a large part of the population [in Lebanon], electricity will become a luxury. Driving your car will become a luxury, too. Transportation will become a luxury.
Turkey is also one of the candidates to rebuild Beirut harbour. There is also a section within Lebanese society – amongst Sunni Muslims – who have some sympathy for Turke...
The Lebanese state has been hollowed out by decades of corruption and patronage, and this has undermined due process and any sense of accountability.
[The Trump administration] is content allowing Israel to take the lead in pushing back against Iranian and Hezbollah influence in Syria.
The real risk [for Israel and Lebanon] is that of a miscommunication or accident being a trigger of a conflict across their border.
The CrisisWatch Digest Lebanon offers a monthly one-page snapshot of conflict-related country trends in a clear, accessible format, using a map of the region to pinpoint developments.
Domestic politics in Israel and Lebanon could scuttle talks about their claims in the Mediterranean – and to the gas riches underneath. With the U.S. mediator’s help, the two countries should refocus on achieving an accord that serves their mutual interest and spares them a confrontation.
On 15 May, amid a continuing economic meltdown, Lebanese voters chose a new parliament. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert David Wood parses the results and assesses the implications for efforts to resolve the country’s deepening crisis.
Crisis Group’s Watch List identifies ten countries or regions at risk of deadly conflict or escalation thereof in 2022. In these places, early action, driven or supported by the EU and its member states, could enhance prospects for peace and stability.
This Crisis Group documentary gives voice to those coping with a state nearing collapse. It shows why today's interlocking crises are so much deeper and more dangerous than many others that have plagued Lebanon over nearly half a century of deadly conflicts.
Lebanon’s imploding economy is deepening instability in the country. Public safety is further imperilled as state institutions weaken and regional tensions play out in Lebanese domestic politics. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2022, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to provide financial support to the Lebanese state, press for elections to be held on schedule and intensify efforts to reduce tension in the region.
While warning signs of Lebanon’s economic meltdown have been apparent for some time, as Crisis Group expert Heiko Wimmen writes, it is still shocking just how close things are to falling apart.
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