• Sunday, Dec 06, 2020
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Lebanon's Hariri on course to be named PM again

  • Published at 05:27 pm October 22nd, 2020
Saad Hariri
Former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri speaks at the presidential palace, in Baabda on October 12, 2020 Reuters

Sunni leader Hariri's last coalition government was toppled almost exactly a year ago as protests gripped the country

Saad al-Hariri appeared on course to be chosen for a fourth term as Lebanon's prime minister on Thursday to try forming a new government to tackle the country's deepest crisis since its 1975-1990 civil war.

Hariri would still face 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.

Sunni leader Hariri's last coalition government was toppled almost exactly a year ago as protests gripped the country, furious at Lebanon's ruling elite.

He needed to win support on Thursday from parliamentarians who were meeting President Michel Aoun, after weeks of political wrangling that has delayed a deal on a new government.

Hariri was backed by his own Future lawmakers, Druze politician Walid Jumblatt's party and other small blocs.

The Shia 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 FPM led by Aoun's son-in-law, which has the largest Christian bloc, has said before it would not nominate Hariri.

The second main Christian party and a staunch Hezbollah opponent, the Lebanese Forces, declined to name 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.

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.

Thursday's consultations were postponed from last week amid political rifts. 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 Shia Amal - have a majority in parliament.

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