Beirut: After five largely inconclusive rounds of talks between the Future Movement and Hezbollah whose principal goal aimed to defuse sectarian tensions in the country, a partial accord was reached to remove party banners and photos of politicians—both local and foreign—from Beirut streets. On Thursday, the first banners were removed along the airport road, a stretch of about 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) that stood as impeccable eyesores. Similar efforts were promised for several other cities throughout the country, although the primary focus was the capital.
According to the governor of Beirut, Ziad Shebib, 90 percent of political banners and posters would be removed before the end of this weekend. In a moment of utter hubris, Shebib affirmed that he and his team “will work from now on to make Beirut appear civilized,” which raised troubling questions, as to whether this was a mere show.
In the event, the campaign received political cover from the two political parties engaged in stealthy dialogues, to address grave public concerns. Although Shebib asserted that cleanup operations were under way “in all regions without exception,” the accord included an exception, Beirut’s Southern suburbs known as the “Dahiyah” that is a Hezbollah stronghold. Lebanese were undoubtebly happy about the development, but still very pessimistic about the greater political situation. Walking on the Raouche Corniche, Hussain Fakih, a resident of Dahiyah, yelled: ‘A’balna (colloquial for “hope our turn is next”). “This is a great idea,” said Mohammad Sabti, a student, as he walked down Bliss Street near the American University of Beirut, “but its very cosmetic. Let’s see our dear politicians agree on more important things like electing a president.”