10/23/2020, 13.29
LEBANON
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Lebanon turns to Hariri for a fourth time to save a nation adrift

Lebanese President Michel Aoun tasks the former Prime Minister, who resigned in October 2019 following street protests, with forming a new cabinet. Hariri pledges to set up a cabinet of non-aligned experts as soon as possible. Few are optimistic given the tempo of Lebanese politics. For now, Hezbollah is remaining on the sidelines, whilst Amal is in favour of the president’s choice.

Beirut (AsiaNews/Agencies) – In a country facing economic, health and political crises, Lebanese President Michel Aoun picked Saad Hariri to tackle the country’s huge difficulties and restore the unity and cohesion of a nation adrift.

Yesterday, the three-time Prime Minister Saad Hariri was tasked with putting together a new cabinet about a year after his resignation, following massive street protests against a ruling class deemed corrupt and a skyrocketing public debt.

Last year’s political crisis was but one of the many factors affecting Lebanon’s political and economic life, with challenges against government institutions as such.

This precarious situation and ongoing emergency received a final blow with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the double blast that hit the Port of Beirut.

The net result is that 55 per cent of the population is now below the poverty line, causing, among other things, a spike in the number of suicides and panic buying of medical drugs in short supply.

After Hariri resigned in October 2019, two different prime ministers tried to guarantee stability to a nation torn apart by conflicting interests and factions.

Hariri's immediate successor, Hassan Diab, had to resign following the port incident, believed by many to have been the result of the government neglect and negligence.

After long and unsuccessful negotiations with various political parties to set up a new government, Diab’s successor, Mustapha Adib, failed to put together a cabinet and was forced to replace his mandate into the hands of President Michel Aoun.

Divisions and personal interests are among the causes that brought about to the current crisis, which led the Maronite patriarch, Card Beshara al-Rahi, to repeatedly call for a new cabinet made up of independent and competent members.

In doing so, he openly clashed with Lebanon’s two main Shia parties who demanded the Ministry of Finance.

Saad Hariri, 50, must form an independent and competent government in line with the conditions imposed by French President Emmanuel Macron, to guarantee international political and financial support for the country.

The prime minister-designate said he would “form a cabinet of non politically aligned experts with the mission of economic, financial and administrative reforms contained in the French initiative roadmap”.

“I will work on forming a government quickly because time is running out,” he added, calling it the country’s “only and last chance”.

Still, Lebanese politics and the uncertain ethnic and confessional balance of power on which it rests make a short-term solution difficult to achieve.

Selecting a government team is itself a long process. It took Hariri eight months to put together his last cabinet after the 2018 parliamentary elections, when the situation was not as bad as it is now.

President Michel Aoun named him prime minister-designate on Thursday after he secured the support of 65 of the 128-member parliament.

Hezbollah, which heads the powerful pro-Iranian Shia parliamentary bloc, did not name anyone for the post, whilst its main Shia ally, Amal, backed Hariri.

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