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“Kullun haramiyyeh” — “they’re all thieves” — is the most common sentiment about Lebanon’s politics on the streets of Beirut. You’ll hear it from street vendors, waiters, students, teachers, architects, taxi drivers, doctors, Muslims, and Christians. It’s a , in short, that unites this perpetually fragmented country.
So when Michel Aoun, the maverick general-turned-politician, achieved his long-held ambition of becoming president on Monday, most ordinary Lebanese reacted with indifference. The new president is just another name, another title, and another episode in the country’s endless — and ultimately meaningless — political drama.
To become president, Aoun, the country’s main Christian leader, struck a deal with his longtime opponent, Saad Hariri, head of the rival Sunni Future Movement. As part of the deal, Hariri will now become prime minister. But for the deal to work, it also needed (and duly received) the approval of arguably the most powerful man in Lebanon — Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah.
For ordinary people, this is all a game of musical chairs. Such is the disconnect between the country’s political class and the people that the average Lebanese can’t tell the difference between having a president and not having one. Prior to Monday, Lebanon had, in fact, been without a president for two years — but this fact could not be discerned on the streets of Beirut. President or no, Lebanon has had no effective governance for decades. [...]