Lebanon reacts to Miqati resignation

Lebanese army patrols Tripoli

Najib Miqati’s dramatic resignation announcement sparked a night of fighting in his hometown Tripoli that settled into an uneasy calm early Saturday, while top Lebanese politicians spoke out on the dramatic move amid a looming political vacuum.


Following his speech to the nation, Miqati’s supporters cut access to Tripoli’s central Abdul Hamid Karami Square and violence erupted elsewhere in the city.


Violence erupted between the Alawite district of Jabal Mohsen and the neighboring Sunni areas of Al-Mankoubin and Al-Mallula, with RPG rounds striking the city’s battle-scarred quarters amid heavy gunfire, the National News Agency reported.


The Lebanese Armed Forces intervened to respond to the source of fire, the report added.


A tense calm prevailed over the city on Saturday morning, with MTV saying that intermittent gunfire could be heard as schools remained closed.


No casualties were reported in the overnight fighting that resumed after a tenuous ceasefire between the rival neighborhoods of Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tebbaneh took hold Friday to end a day of intense sectarian clashes that left at least five people dead.


Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said that Miqati’s resignation—and the ensuing political vacuum as politicians scramble to form a new government—would affect the security situation in the country.


“The security situation will be affected by the absence of the government,” he told LBC on Friday night, but added, “We will not let things go out of hand until a new one is formed.”


Kataeb Party leader Amin Gemayel also sounded a warning over the implications of the cabinet’s collapse amid the escalating sectarian tensions on Lebanon.


“We have to be wary of the danger that the upcoming period, with its regional and international developments and their repercussions on Lebanon, entails,” he said in an interview published Saturday by Al-Jumhuriya newspaper.


Nevertheless, Gemayel praised Miqati’s step during an overnight interview with LBC and said that it took “courage.”


Lebanese Forces leader echoed the Kataeb leader, saying, “We cannot but praise the bold step Miqati took.”


Meanwhile, Future bloc leader MP Fouad Siniora offered an optimistic future on the immediate political future of the country.


“The cabinet’s resignation today opened the door to a round of dialogue,” he told Al-Arabiya television.


Top March 8 coalition politicians did not immediately comment on Miqati’s resignation announcement, with only Change and Reform bloc MP Ibrahim Kanaan questioning why the premier had to step down over the issue of Internal Security Forces chief Ashraf Rifi’s tenure.


Miqati announced his resignation after ministers did not vote on the extension of Rifi’s term and rejected the creation of an electoral supervisory body during Friday’s cabinet session.


The move brought to an end a government that was created less than two years ago after March 8 toppled former PM Saad Hariri’s national-unity cabinet.

Lebanese army troops patrol the streets of the northern city of Tripoli following clashes between pro- and anti-Syrian regime local gunmen on March 22, 2013. (AFP/Joseph Eid)

No casualties were reported in the overnight fighting that resumed after a tenuous ceasefire.