Mustafa Fahs

Lebanon… The King’s Collision

Lebanon - as a political entity - its state, institutions, and political parties are taking their last breaths. A split has emerged in its judiciary. On the one hand, we have those seeking accountability for a flagrant crime. On the other hand, some are trying to put an end to the pursuit of justice as though the Lebanese were fated to live with violence. The king’s pillars have become little more than wreckage after justice collided with the walls of power. These walls are fortified with every form of sedition, forgery, and corruption, as well as organized crime, assassinations, and coups, the latest of which was the judicial coup that destroyed the judiciary and could well destroy Lebanon.

The Judicial investigator of the port blast, Tarek Bitar, lit a nitrate explosion of his own, breaking what remains of the political and sectarian taboos that the clique in power is striving to maintain as it vies to safeguard what remains of its prestige on the street and domination of the state after the uprising of October 17, 2019, and the explosion of August 4, 2021, forced it to take leaps backward because of deteriorating living conditions and criminal proceedings. Taking a different legal approach and arguing for a different reading of rulings, Bitar took back his authority and launched a large-scale judicial attack, summoning the regime’s political, security, and judicial officials to come in for questioning.

The response did not take more than 24 hours, but the twist is that it came from the judiciary rather than politicians. Issuing rulings that negated Bitar’s actions and turned him into something of a suspect, the authorities paved the way for putting an end to the investigation, undermining it from within, and tying justice to a political settlement, which is to be tied to the acquiescence of foreign powers. This acquiescence would allow the clique to get their sectarian and partisan houses in order, implementing new rules that build on the coup against the judiciary.

Since Michel Aoun’s exit from Baabda Palace (the Presidential Palace), Lebanon has seen a vacuum imposed by it. As the authorities struggle to reconfigure their hold on power, we see many similarities with what happened in 2016, when they succeeded in imposing the election of Michel Aoun as president, as well as what happened in 2018, when they held legislative elections that were held based on an electoral law that ensures their absolute control over parliament. Nonetheless, despite the economic calamities, criminal actions, and political crises facing Lebanon, its state and its people, this regime has not given up on its ambition of regaining all the power that it had lost in the 2022 elections and re-imposing its will domestically and internationally.

That is why the authorities who run the country’s institutions pressed forward with their presidential charge at this dubious time. Several local and international factors, as well as judicial, political and economic factors, explain their behavior. Locally, they began working on getting their presidential candidate elected in the face of a complex parliament. They may need to resort to unconventional methods to obtain the constitutional majority - that is, electing a president with a simple parliamentary majority.

However, even if they manage to force through their own interpretation of the constitutional mechanism for electing the president, they will face serious difficulties in getting some parliamentary blocs back in line and forcing them to vote for him. Another challenge they face is the deputies in opposition and the independents pushing who had never been part of the system and held positions of authority. They constitute a real obstacle that will prevent them from achieving their goal.

As the battles for the presidency and the investigation rage on, the national currency is collapsing and almost in free fall. Nothing is holding back the deterioration of its value against the dollar or containing inflation and skyrocketing prices. There is absolutely no vision or even potential for the emergence of ideas for ways to ease the burdens of the crisis on citizens. This has left all eyes on the street, which could explode at any moment and under very different circumstances from those of October 17, 2019.

This could well lead to chaos on the streets that costs lives and kills livelihoods, especially since there are parties pushing their loyalists to take to the streets and further their objectives. However, the concern is that the parties may fail to maintain their grip on the masses in the streets for long, and this may lead to clashes between their supporters and the “Octoberists.” Indeed, what remains of the state’s security apparatuses might fail to contain the violence, turning the country’s already fragile stability into a thing of the past.

And so, Lebanon is on a collision course. This collision, whose timing, form, and scale the Lebanese used to speculate about, is now upon us. However, the twist is that it was judicial, announcing to the people that they no longer have anything to lose.