The August 4 disaster, which was caused by highly explosive ammonium nitrate that was stored at Beirut’s port for more than six years, has fuelled popular anger and upended politics in a country already struggling with a major economic crisis.
Most Lebanese blame their leadership’s corruption and neglect for the explosion, which has caused damage to the extent of an estimated $15bn and left nearly 300,000 people homeless.
Since October, there have been mass demonstrations demanding the departure of the entire sectarian-based leadership over entrenched corruption, incompetence, and mismanagement.
But the ruling oligarchy has held onto power for so long – since the end of the civil war in 1990 – that it is difficult to find a credible political figure not tainted by connections to them.
On Sunday, world leaders and international organizations pledged nearly $300m in emergency humanitarian aid to Beirut but warned no funds would be made available until Lebanese authorities committed themselves to the political and economic reforms demanded by the people.
Although Diab’s resignation had appeared inevitable after the catastrophe, he seemed unwilling to leave and only two days ago made a televised speech in which he offered to stay on for two months to allow for various factions to agree on a road map for reforms. But the pressure from within his cabinet proved to be too much.
Rami Khouri, a professor at the American University of Beirut, described the developments of the past week as “a historic turning point in the modern political governance of Lebanon” that is “just at the beginning”.
He said while the resignation could be seen as a victory for the protesters who view the government as a “corrupt system”, it is important to note that others benefit from it.
As information, political parties control schools and hospitals, among other things across the country.