Lebanese opposition figure Sami Gemayel has said his country has been “taken hostage in the hands of Iran and Hezbollah.”
In comments to local media Thursday, the head of the Christian Kataeb party said upcoming parliamentary elections in March were “a choice between life and death,” as the country sinks ever deeper into an economic and political crisis.
Lebanese must choose, he said, between “taking a first step on the way out of the deadly situation” in which they find themselves, or to go back to the cycle of settlements and compromises that destroyed the country.”
Gemayel, the nephew of assassinated former president Bashir Gemayel, opposed a compromise between Lebanese parties in recent years that allowed Hezbollah to establish a significant foothold in the government.
“Many wondered about the meaning of what we were doing, and about the reason for our refusal to ally with any of the members of the system,” he said. “We were aware at that time that the presidential settlement [that made Hezbollah ally Michael Aoun head of state] would lead to collapse and the handing over of the country to Hezbollah.”
Kataeb does not currently have any members of parliament. Its three elected representatives resigned after the August 2020 explosion at the Beirut port to protest the government.
Lebanon is grappling with an unprecedented economic crisis branded by the World Bank as one the planet’s worst in modern times.
More than 80 percent of the population lives in poverty and the local currency has lost more than 90% of its value on the black market.
Political squabbling has repeatedly hampered financial recovery efforts, including talks with the International Monetary Fund which were launched last year but soon hit a wall.
A new government, formed in September with the aim of carving a path out of the crisis, has failed to meet since October due to divisions over the fate of a probe into last year’s monster port blast.
Hezbollah has been impeding the investigation, leading demands to remove the judge overseing the probe. Multiple legal challenges have been filed against Tarek Bitar.
Rights groups and relatives of blast victims have condemned the court challenges as a blatant form of political interference meant to thwart accountability for the tragedy.