Skip to main content

Lebanon dysfunction hits new peak on 48th anniversary of war

Judge Ghada Aoun has lifted a ban on Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh ahead of his summoning in Paris next month and the municipal elections are likely to canceled for the second year in a row.
A boy stands in the balcony of a building ravaged by Lebanon's Civil War, in Beirut's Ras al-Nabeh district on April 13, 2023. - The Lebanese civil war broke out on April 13, 1975 and ended in 1990 with the Taef agreement. (Photo by ANWAR AMRO / AFP) (Photo by ANWAR AMRO/afp/AFP via Getty Images)

BEIRUT — On the 48th anniversary of the Lebanese civil war Thursday, Beirut is paralyzed. Municipal elections planned for next month are now stalled, the presidential void is entering its sixth month and the judiciary has flip-flopped by lifting a travel ban on the head of the Central Bank, Riad Salameh

The lifting of the travel ban came ahead of his scheduled hearing in Paris next month concerning a number of alleged money laundering and other financial crimes, The Associated Press reported on Thursday.

Judge Ghada Aoun had slapped Salameh with the travel ban in January 2022 amid an investigation into allegations of fraud, abuse of public funds and financial misconduct.

Salameh, who has been governor of the Central Bank for three decades, is also being probed by several European countries over his alleged embezzlement of some $330 million to purchase luxury properties in Europe. 

A French judge leading a delegation of European judicial officials in Beirut questioned Salameh last month and French prosecutors scheduled a hearing in Paris for May 16. After the travel ban is lifted, Salameh “will have no excuse not to go to France” for the hearing, a judicial official told Agence France-Presse on Wednesday. 

The embattled governor has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and refused to attend any hearings with Aoun, who he accuses of bias. 

Aoun has been accused by rivals of serving the agenda of former President Michel Aoun, who throughout his term in office repeatedly blamed Salameh and his financial policies for Lebanon’s financial collapse.

The political infighting in Lebanon has left almost all sectors, including the judiciary, ineffective. The political bickering has also left the country without a president for nearly six months, as the deeply divided parliament failed more than 10 times to agree on a presidential candidate.

The current parliament was elected in March of last year, in the first elections that were held after massive nationwide protests against the ruling elite broke out in October 2019. Many Lebanese had hoped the vote would bring about change and remove the entrenched political class that has been ruling the country since the civil war, which ended in 1990. But no change has come.

Voters elect municipal councils for six-year terms. This week, the highly anticipated municipal elections that were due in May now seem further off than ever after parliament speaker Nabih Berri announced that a legislative session next week would discuss a draft law for extending the municipal terms.

The local elections had already been postponed last year, when they would have coincided with the parliamentary elections.

Many analysts say there is no real will among politicians to hold the municipal elections, as municipalities have become yet another tool in their hands to expand their influence amid rampant corruption in the country’s institutions.

Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawli stressed earlier this month that the polls would be held on time. However, on Wednesday, deputy speaker Elias Bou Saab, who proposed the bill to extend the municipalities' term for another four months, said that the cash-strapped government has failed to secure the necessary funds for the elections.

“It has become impossible to stage the municipal elections,” Bou Saab said at the end of a parliamentary session to discuss the issue of funding the polls.

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Already a Member? Sign in


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial
What's included:
Our Expertise

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

Already a Member? Sign in