OPN HASSAN Diab-1577009311758
Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab gives a statement following his meeting with outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Beirut on December 20, 2019. Image Credit: AFP

Lebanon’s new prime minister, Hassan Diab, is taking office against the backdrop of ongoing nationwide protests against the country’s ruling elite.

Diab, a university professor and former education minister, has the onerous task of steering Lebanon out of its worst economic and financial crisis in decades. After Saturday’s consultations with parliamentary blocs, to shape the future government, he said legislators all had one concern: To get the country out of its “strangling” economic crisis.

The new premier’s task is further complicated by the opposition from Sunni, Christian and Druze parties who view him as a political appointee of Iran-backed Hezbollah. Diab wants to create a government of experts and independents — a chief demand of protesters — but it is unclear whether he will be able to achieve this.

Previously Hezbollah wanted a government of both technocrats and established politicians, but now Diab claims that Hezbollah has agreed to a government of only experts.

Diab has a crucial but difficult task at hand, and he needs to be committed to being a true voice for the people of Lebanon.

- Gulf News

Diab is said to be keen on a government fully made up of independents and has vowed to step down if there is going to be members of the state’s political parties.

If Diab can pull it off, it will be a very positive development that could take the country forward at this critical juncture. However, Hezbollah needs to understand that the protesters will not be fooled by its games and tactics. If, at any point, Diab veers from the protesters’ demands, he will be doomed to fail.

It is time that Hezbollah stops taking orders from Iran and starts listening to the Lebanese people.

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It needs to demonstrate that it stands with — not against — the people. Instead of assaulting protesters as has been done several times since demonstrations began on October 17, Hezbollah needs to put down its batons and pay attention to the nation’s health.

It is only through discussion and dialogue that the country will be able to put the crisis behind them.

This revolution is peaceful and should carry the country into a new era, one that rids itself of mafia-like intimidation tactics. In the past, Hezbollah has flexed its muscles to impose its will on the people. Now, it is the people that should be dictating their demands to the powerful parties in Lebanon. Diab has a crucial but difficult task at hand, and he needs to be committed to being a true voice for the people of Lebanon.