Skep­ti­cism over Le­banon’s ‘tech­no­cratic’ cab­i­net

Kuwait Times - - Internatio­nal -

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.

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