Skepticism over Lebanon’s ‘technocratic’ cabinet
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s new prime minister claims to lead a government of technocrats but critics argue the line-up is window dressing for a set of ministers who are neither experts nor independent. Hassan Diab insisted the list of 20 ministers unveiled Tuesday night represented the demands of protesters who first took to the streets three months ago to demand change. But protesters reacted angrily to the line-up, arguing it fell short of a clean break from the sectarian-driven way of apportioning government jobs that has characterized Lebanese politics for decades.
A self-proclaimed technocrat, the 61-yearold Diab is a university professor but also a former education minister who owes his political appointments to the Shiite group Hezbollah. Before his cabinet was even formed, many protesters rejected him as a pawn of the parties they want removed from the political landscape. The cabinet brought many new faces but the month-long political bargaining that led to Tuesday’s announcement fuelled deep-rooted suspicion that behind every technocrat is a party clinging to its share of influence and patronage. A closer look at the line-up confirmed that, with some exceptions, the government is nothing but another product of Lebanon’s age-old political pie-slicing game.
“Despite the presence of a few genuinely independent and reformist figures, the cooks who whipped up this government are the usual suspects,” said Karim Bitar, a professor of international relations in Paris and Beirut. Gebran Bassil, President Michel Aoun’s son-in-law and arguably the politician most reviled by the protest camp, hands over the foreign ministry to Nassif Hitti, a respected career diplomat. Justice Minister Marie-Claude Najm and Finance Minister Ghazni Wazni are also both considered to have strong credentials.