As Lebanon looks toward rebuilding following the 4 August port disaster (MEES, 14 August), the government’s fragile political consensus is tearing at the seams. Tens of thousands of aggrieved citizens held a massive protest 8 August in central Beirut – just one kilometer from the blast site – following three days of national mourning and were immediately met with teargas, rubber bullets, and shotgun fire. Hundreds were wounded.
Several MPs and cabinet ministers resigned in the wake of the explosion, followed by Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s resignation the night of the protest. Both Mr Diab and President Michel Aoun admitted to be being informed about the ammonium nitrate held at the port just weeks before the fateful blast (MEES, 7 August). Mr Diab is now calling for early elections – which are mainly being supported by Hezbollah’s rivals to cash in on resentment– and the political establishment is calling for former PM Saad al-Hariri to head a new government, the same Hariri whose government resigned due to last year’s protests. (CONTINUED - 167 WORDS)