A petition to put Lebanon under a French mandate has garnered more than 50,000 signatures in 24 hours.
President Emmanuel Macron landed in Beirut on Thursday morning to show support for France’s Middle East protege and former colonial-era protectorate after a massive explosion sowed devastation in the Lebanese capital.
The petition is telling of people’s frustration with the Lebanese government’s “total inability to secure and manage the country,” its creators wrote.
“With a failing system, corruption, terrorism and militia the country just drew its last breath. We believe Lebanon be placed back under a French mandate in order to establish clean and durable governance,” they added.
“I’m under no illusion. France has its own problems to deal with,” Cyrille, the petition’s creator told Euronews. He added that he launched the petition hoping it would “show the extent of [the Lebanese people’s] despair”.
“If we were to have a revolution and re-elect parliament, even the electoral law that was enforced by the government would favour a hegemony of the political class that has been there for 40 years,” he said.
“Since France left, the country has only been sinking. Civil war, economic, political and border crises followed,” Franco-Lebanese John, a signatory, told Euronews
He added that he wonders whether “the Lebanese leaders will be humble enough to acknowledge their incompetence and their failure”.
“Lebanon does not have an economic strategy,” another person who signed the petition, who wanted to remain anonymous, told Euronews. “The people live from day-to-day. They are trying to heal the deep wounds of the present with bandages.”
Lebanon and France’s close ties
At the end of World War I, Lebanon was placed under French military administration before the League of Nations formally gave the mandate for Lebanon and Syria to France in 1923.
Initially, during World War II, Lebanon was administered by Vichy France, but the territory came under Free France 1942.
French representative General Catroux later proclaimed both the independence of Lebanon and Syria, following pressure from Britain.
The Free French government, with by Charles De Gaulle at its head, showed an unwillingness to let go of their control over the region. They decided, however, to hold elections in 1943, which resulted in a victory for nationalists.
The newly-elected government introduced constitutional changes that aimed at removing all remains of French influence.
Unhappy with the new legislation, the president and almost the entire government were arrested by the French — which led to an insurrection and a diplomatic intervention by the British.
The French transferred powers to the restored government. Independence was formally proclaimed on November 22, 1943, but it was not until the total withdrawal of British and French troops in 1946 that Lebanon became wholly independent.