After Hariri, Najib Mikati to form a new government
Hariri gave up after 10 months of unsuccessful attempts. Backed by 72 MPs, the 65-year-old Mikati, a billionaire businessman, is tasked to form a new government, his third stint at the prime minister’s office. Promising a cabinet "in the interest" of the country, he has the support of Hezbollah, but must still earn that of Christian factions.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – After a political crisis that lasted months, the Lebanese Parliament gave Najib Mikati[*] a mandate to form a new government. This follows failed attempts by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri to do the same.
Mikati, a 65-year-old billionaire and long-time politician, received 72 votes with 42 abstentions, while independent MP Fouad Makhzoumi voted for former Ambassador Nawwaf Salam.
Today the prime minister-designate will start consultations with the various political parties in order to pick members of his new cabinet.
Born in the northern city of Tripoli, Mikati is considered Lebanon’s richest man and one of the wealthiest in the Middle East, with a personal fortune estimated to be around US$ 2.7 billion by Forbes.
Mikati served as prime minister twice before: from April to July 2005 following the assassination of then Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, and from June 2011 to March 2013, at the start of Syria’s civil war.
“I want the confidence of the people, not only MPs,” Mikati said after his designation. "The cooperation of all Lebanese is required in order to stop the inferno," he added.
Although he noted that he does not have a “magic wand”, he stressed that the new government will be formed in “the interest of Lebanon and its economy,” adding that “If I didn't have specific foreign reassurances, I would not have made my step”.
The faint hope is that the billionaire’s nomination could end months of failures and personal bickering, especially between Hariri and President Michel Aoun, which prevented the setting up of a government and aggravated an unprecedented financial crisis.
Lebanon’s former ambassador to Germany Mustafa Adib was the first to try to form a government in this troubled phase of Lebanese political history in the aftermath of the double explosion in the Port of Beirut on 4 August last year. A month later he threw in the towel.
Saad Hariri was next tasked with forming a government, but he too gave up ten months later after vain attempts in a country moving ever closer to the abyss.
In his case, Mikati received the backing of various factions, including pro-Iranian Shia party Hezbollah and three former prime ministers, including Hariri himself, all Sunnis.
However, allegations of malfeasance hang over the new primate minister-designate over the use of public funds, and many Christian factions seem reticent towards him, in particular President Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces.
An anonymous political leader cited by Lebanese French-language daily L’Orient-Le Jour, described Mikati as "the water that flows between the fingers of a hand that one can never collect”, i.e., someone chosen when no other alternative exists, a man hard to pin down politically who maintains cordial relations with everyone.
[*] Also spelled Miqati.