Lebanon’s new government won parliament’s vote of confidence on Tuesday, as 63 MPs voted in favor, 20 voted against and one MP abstained.
The MPs of Hizbullah, the Free Patriotic Movement, the AMAL Movement and their allies granted confidence to Hassan Diab’s government as those of al-Mustaqbal Movement, the Progressive Socialist Party and the Lebanese Forces withheld it.
MP Michel Daher of the FPM-led Strong Lebanon bloc meanwhile abstained from voting.
Eighty-four out of 128 MPs attended the session, which was boycotted by several opposition blocs and MPs.
“No matter the number of accusations, this is a cabinet of nonpartisan specialists and our hearts are outside, beating alongside the people,” Diab said told parliament in a speech that preceded the vote.
“The government will carry the demands of the Lebanese and launch the course of salvation,” he pledged.
Diab added that he fully realized the massive task ahead but was confident it was still possible to rescue Lebanon’s economy from complete collapse — and that his government would get to work immediately.
“The ball of fire is spiraling quickly and if the flame is not controlled by this government then it will burn everyone,” Diab said. “We will do all we can to put Lebanon on track of reforms,” he added.
The meeting was held amid a crippling economic and financial crisis, Lebanon’s worst in decades, and an ongoing protest movement against the country’s hated political class. Amid a spiraling financial crisis, Lebanese banks have imposed informal withdrawal limits and halted transfers abroad.
Demonstrators are calling for sweeping reforms and an end to a political class they deem as corrupt and incompetent, blaming it for the rapidly worsening financial crisis. The protests forced the resignation in October of the former prime minister, Saad Hariri.
Diab, a former professor at the American University of Beirut, was picked by the militant group Hizbullah and its allies after negotiations to bring back Hariri, who was insisting on a government of technocrats, failed.
That will make it difficult for him to gain the international community’s trust and unlock badly needed assistance for the country. Friendly nations, including France, have made clear they will not support the heavily indebted nation before a reform-minded Cabinet is formed.
Diab urged the international community, and local opponents, to give his government a chance.
“Lebanon is passing through a very difficult and unprecedented time. Overcoming this period peacefully is close to impossible without assistance from abroad, as well as from the inside,” he said.
The parliament session began with Diab reading the 16-page government statement on a rescue plan to get Lebanon out of its economic and financial crisis, the worst since the end of the 1975-90 civil war.
The plan includes reforms in the judicial, financial and administrative fields, as well as plans fighting corruption and fixing the country’s finances.
Lebanon has one of the highest debt ratios in the world, standing at more than 150% of GDP and worsening over recent years with no economic growth and high unemployment.
In the statement read by Diab, the prime minister said “painful” measures are needed. He said slashing interest rates were among measures that needed to be taken in order to revive the economy and reduce the debt.
“Those who think they can survive the collapse of the economy are mistaken,” Diab said.