There is no doubt that Dr. Hassan Diab, who received the backing of the majority of parliamentarians to form a government, has the qualities of a technocrat. He is a prominent academic whose achievements led to his appointment as the vice-president of the American University of Beirut. However, he is not independent of the political class. Indeed, he was a member of this class during his tenure as Minister of Education in Najib Mikati’s government, which has been described as a “one-sided government” and a “March 8 government”, a government which was formed in accordance with the aspirations of Hezbollah. Today, he is close to heading a government backed by the axis of resistance.
Dr. Diab has the needed requisites to qualify for the primary Sunni position in Lebanon (prime minister). Born on the 6th of January 1959, Diab hails from a prominent Beirut family and is married with three children. He has been working at the AUB since 1985, briefly leaving his position from time to time before returning to it, like he did between 2011 and 2014 when he was appointed minister of education.
The appointed Prime Minister holds a bachelor’s degree (with Honors) in Communications Engineering, a master’s degree (with distinction) in Systems Engineering, and a doctorate in Computer Engineering. He is a Professor of Computer Engineering at the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture in AUB and has contributed to over 100 internationally refereed journals and conferences. Also, he has held many prominent academic positions; most notably, he was appointed Founding Dean of the College of Engineering and Founding President at Dhofar University in Oman in 2004 and Vice President of regional foreign programs at the American University of Beirut since 2006.
Politically, politicians loyal to the Shiite duo (Hezbollah and Amal) and President Michel Aoun, find in him the ideal candidate because, alongside his distinguished career, “he is not part of the corrupt political class”. This alliance rushed to spread the word about his merits and positive qualities. The most eye-catching Tweet came courtesy of Nemat Frem who recently left the “Strong Lebanon” block led by Gebran Bassil: “The word of justice must be said about the man who accompanied me in university as a professor and whom I later developed a relationship that was warm and respectful”.
He added: “Hassan Diab is trustworthy, independent, qualified, and honest; these are the needed qualities for this crucial period. Now we have to see the shape the government will take and the program it will adopt”.
However, Diab did not go unscathed, with claims that he has been chosen beforehand by the Shiite duo, with Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri, with whom he has a longstanding relationship, naming him. Diab had visited President Aoun several times already at the Presidential Palace, and there had been reports that arrangements were being made for him to form a government days before Hariri stepped aside.
Many activists took to social media to decry the appointment. The most noticeable of these was a post by Dr. Hamam Kadara, who said that Hassan Diab had visited his office and his him to give his son a job, saying “give him a job and I’ll pay his salary”, ending the post say “good luck to daddy on leading the anti-corruption government”. Activists also attacked his record as Education Minister, accusing him of “documenting his achievements in a book that cost 70 million Liras (around 50 thousand dollars)”. They also referred to the fact that he replaced the name of a major public school in Beirut with his mother’s name, and said that he was the only education minister to raise the tuition of the Lebanese University. He doubled tuition, from 200,000 Liras to 400,000 (around 280 dollars) without making any improvements to the university.