Middle East

Lebanon's Saad al-Hariri named as new prime minister to pull the country out of crisis

Saad Hariri leaving the Lebanon Tribunal after the ruling on the assassination of ex-Prime Minister Rafik Al Hariri of Lebanon in the Netherlands on 18 August Source: ANP

Mr al-Hariri’s last coalition government was toppled almost exactly a year ago as protests gripped the country, furious at Lebanon’s ruling elite.

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun has designated Sunni Muslim politician Saad al-Hariri as prime minister to form a new government to tackle the worst crisis since the country’s 1975-1990 civil war.

Mr Hariri won the backing of a majority of parliamentarians in consultations with Mr Aoun on Thursday.

He faces major challenges to navigate Lebanon’s power-sharing politics and agree a cabinet, which must then address a mounting list of woes: a banking crisis, currency crash, rising poverty and crippling state debts.

A new government will also have to contend with a COVID-19 surge and the fallout of the huge August explosion at Beirut port that killed nearly 200 people and caused billions of dollars of damage.

Mr al-Hariri’s last coalition government was toppled almost exactly a year ago as protests gripped the country, furious at Lebanon’s ruling elite.

Thursday’s nomination follows weeks of political wrangling that has delayed a deal on a new government.

The destroyed silo sits in rubble and debris after an explosion at the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020
A new government will have to contend with the fallout of the huge August explosion at Beirut port that killed nearly 200 people.
AP

Mr al-Hariri was backed by his own Future lawmakers, the Shiite Amal party, Druze politician Walid Jumblatt’s party and other small blocs.

The Shiite group, Hezbollah, said it was not nominating anyone, but added it would seek to facilitate the process.

“We will contribute to maintain the positive climate,” Mohammed Raad, head of its parliamentary bloc, told reporters at the presidential palace.

The Free Patriotic Movement, led by Mr Aoun’s son-in-law, which has the largest Christian bloc, said it would not nominate Mr al- Hariri.

The second main Christian party and a staunch Hezbollah opponent, the Lebanese Forces, also declined to name Mr al-Hariri, saying a veteran politician should not lead a planned cabinet of specialists.

“Has this political class that took people hostage learned that they cannot continue in this way?” MP Georges Adwan said. “It is now facing a test.”

Former colonial power France has tried rallying Lebanon’s sectarian leaders to pull the nation from crisis, but has been frustrated by the apparent lack of urgency or progress.

Mr al-Hariri has presented himself as the “natural candidate” to build a cabinet that can revive the French roadmap, which set out reforms needed to trigger foreign aid. He has also said that Lebanon must agree on an International Monetary Fund reform program to escape the crisis.

Thursday’s consultations were postponed from last week amid political rifts. Mr Aoun is required to choose the candidate with the most support from lawmakers. Iran-backed Hezbollah and its political allies - including the party founded by Aoun and Shiite Amal - have a majority in parliament.

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