Lebanon’s prime minister is stepping down in the wake of the Beirut port explosion last week that triggered public fury and mass protests. In a brief televised speech, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said Monday that he is taking “a step back” so he can stand with the people “and fight the battle for change alongside them," per the AP. “I declare today the resignation of this government. May God protect Lebanon,” he said, repeating the last phrase three times. Earlier, Diab's whole Cabinet resigned. The developments follow a weekend of anti-government protests in the wake of the explosion in Beirut’s port that caused widespread destruction, killed at least 160 people, and injured about 6,000 others. “They (the political class) should have been ashamed of themselves because their corruption is what has led to this disaster that had been hidden for seven years," said Diab.
The moment typified Lebanon’s political dilemma. Since October, there have been mass demonstrations demanding the departure of the entire sectarian-based leadership over entrenched corruption, incompetence, and mismanagement. But the ruling oligarchy has held onto power for so long—since the end of the civil war in 1990—that it is difficult to find a credible political figure not tainted by connections to them. Although Diab’s resignation had appeared inevitable after the catastrophe, he seemed unwilling to leave and only two days ago made a televised speech in which he offered to stay on for two months to allow for various factions to agree on a road map for reforms. But the pressure from within his own Cabinet proved to be too much.