Lebanon delays PM designation seven weeks after resignation

Saad al-Hariri, the former prime minister of Lebanon, was expected to be nominated for the fourth time. Now, his successor's nomination is delayed. 

Mohamed Azakir/Reuters
Lebanon's President Michel Aoun (left) listens to Saad al-Hariri (right), the former prime minister of Lebanon, during a military parade in Yarze, Lebanon Nov. 22, 2019. Mr. Aoun has delayed the nomination of Mr. Hariri's successor.

The nomination of Lebanon's next prime minister was postponed on Monday as new complications surfaced in efforts to agree a government that is urgently needed to pull the country out of a destabilizing economic crisis.

More than seven weeks since Saad al-Hariri quit as prime minister, prompted by protests against the ruling elite, politicians have been unable to agree on a new administration despite a deepening financial crunch.

The impasse took a violent turn at the weekend when Beirut was clouded in tear gas as security forces clashed with protesters who blame the politicians for corruption and bad governance. Dozens were wounded.

The economic crisis, years in the making, has come to a head since protests began in October: Banks are restricting access to savings, the Lebanese pound has lost a third of its official value, and thousands of jobs have been lost. Some banks further lowered ceilings on cash withdrawals on Monday.

Despite differences between the main parties over the composition of a new government, Mr. Hariri had been on course to be nominated prime minister for a fourth time in the consultations.

But in a last-minute change of plan, President Michel Aoun postponed these until Thursday at Mr. Hariri's request to allow for more talks about the next government, the presidency said.

Political sources and analysts attributed the move to a decision by the Christian Lebanese Forces (LF) party to name neither Mr. Hariri nor anyone else for prime minister, a post which must go to a Sunni Muslim in Lebanon's sectarian system.

The LF wants a cabinet of independent specialists.

Mr. Hariri, who is aligned with Gulf Arab and Western states, wants to lead a cabinet of specialists. But his position is at odds with Mr. Aoun and his powerful Shi'ite ally, the Iran-backed Hezbollah. Both believe the government must include politicians.

Mr. Hariri's office confirmed in a statement the decision was prompted by the LF move, saying it would have left him without the support of a leading Christian grouping, a necessity for "national consensus."

With tensions running high between Mr. Hariri and Mr. Aoun, who is also Christian, the LF decision denied Mr. Hariri's candidacy a pan-sectarian seal of approval.

Sunni backing

"He can't come to office without [either] of the big Christian blocs," said Nabil Boumonsef, deputy editor-in-chief of the An-Nahar newspaper. "I don't expect from now until Thursday morning we will find a miraculous solution."

A senior politician involved in contacts among the parties said the matters had grown more complicated.

The party founded by Mr. Aoun, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), has said it will not join a government formed on Mr. Hariri's terms. The FPM urged an end to "time wasting" and urged Mr. Hariri to nominate a candidate of "integrity" to be prime minister.

But several attempts to find an alternative to Mr. Hariri have failed. Mr. Hariri is Lebanon's leading Sunni and the only candidate backed by the Sunni religious establishment.

The heavily armed Hezbollah has said the next government must bring all sides together to tackle the crisis, including the FPM. Hezbollah's leader has said the formation of a new government will be hard even if a prime minister is designated.

Lebanon's foreign allies have urged the formation of a credible government that can enact swift reforms if it wants to receive international support.

Jan Kubis, the U.N. special coordinator for Lebanon, said the weekend violence "showed that postponements of a political solution of the current crisis create a fertile ground for provocations and political manipulation."

He added the violence should be investigated to prevent a move towards "aggressive and confrontational behavior by all."

This story was reported by Reuters. 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Lebanon delays PM designation seven weeks after resignation
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2019/1216/Lebanon-delays-PM-designation-seven-weeks-after-resignation
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe