The Question of the Stabilization of Lebanon
Poor Governance and Corruption
The most important driver of instability in Lebanon is its corrupt governance system. Post-civil war Lebanon is governed through a confessional system (a system of government which distributes power proportionally among religious communities) to balance political power between the religious sects within the country, with Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, Maronite Christians, Greek Orthodox, and the Druze comprising the most powerful of the 18 total sects. This system was intended to keep harmony among sects. Yet, the government proves unable to handle wildfires and address economic malfeasance, as they decided to tax citizens for using WhatsApp. The confessional system struggles to keep the country running properly, resulting in the current political crisis.
Lebanon’s economy is in crisis and causing social unrest among its people. According to BBC, due to political corruption, the nation’s debt is estimated to be 155% of its GDP, ranking 3rd highest in the world as of the end of 2019. Lebanon has appealed for assistance from multiple countries in order to import essential goods. Its currency system has used U.S. dollars interchangeably with the Lebanese pound, but due to the economic crisis, citizens started to withdraw dollars from the bank, causing them to become scarce. Citizens are having trouble paying rent, mortgages, and car loans, as the local currency isn’t being supported in many transactions.
Lebanon was already hosting close to half a million Palestinian refugees within the country, then the Syrian conflict added another 1.5 million to the refugee population. As there are around 4 million Lebanese people in the country, making Lebanon have the lowest native citizen-to-refugee ratio in the world. The presence of refugees has long been used by the Lebanese political elite to maintain power as they instill fear in the citizens. However, refugees were not part of the recent domestic protests, showing that other factors are greater drivers of instability in the country. Since October 2019, there have been largely peaceful protests occurring in Berit, the capital of Lebanon, which have been met by the Lebanese military and security forces with beatings, teargas, rubber bullets, and at times live ammunition and pellets.
Find out more about the protests through these videos: https://edition.cnn.com/videos/world/2020/04/29/lebanon-middle-east-covid-19-coronavirus-protesters-clash-security-forces-karadsheh-intl-ldn-vpx.cnn