The nomination of Lebanese businessman tycoon Mohamed Al-Safadi, to become the country’s new prime minister is increasing the gap between angry protesters and the ruling political elites whom they believe to be corrupt and responsible for the country’s current crisis.
Accordingly, Al-Safadi withdrew from the process and issued a statement in which he declared reasons for his withdrawal. Al-Safadi said that he found it very difficult to form a new government which all parties would support after he finished consultations with caretaker Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri.
Al-Safadi’s withdrawal has forced Lebanon to return to square one, after there were aspirations to form a new government that would implement urgent reforms of which the country is in dire need to put an end to its economic and financial deterioration.
Protesters decided to arrange a one-million-man protest, as reaction to the country’s delay in appointing a new government to meet their demands. Reforms were also needed in order to satisfy protesters who are still out in the streets. Protesters rejected Al-Safadi’s nomination as the country’s future prime minister, as they believe he is part of the corrupt regime which they denounce.
Immediately after announcing the nomination of Al-Safadi as the country’s potential premier, protesters marched to his hometown Tripoli chanting “Thief” as he was subject to a lot of controversies ranging from political corruption to alleged bribery and the involvement in an arms deal.
Tripoli has the highest poverty rates in Lebanon and has witnessed some of the biggest protests. Al-Safadi was supported by the country’s three major parties, the Shiite Hezbollah group and its ally Amal movement, the Free Patriotic Movement, a Christian party, and the Sunni Future Movement.
According to Euronews, the three major parties wanted Al-Hariri to become the country’s prime minister on the condition of forming a government that is comprised of politicians and technocrats. Al-Hariri however, refused the request as he wants to head a purely technocrat government in order to meet protesters’ aspirations and to rescue the country from its deteriorating situation.
Lebanon’s three former Prime Ministers Tammam Salam, Najib Mikati and Fouad Siniora issued a joint statement, in which they rejected Al-Safadi’s nomination, though he served as a minister under the government of both Mikati and Siniora. Bloomberg reported that according to the statement, the three former premiers support the appointment of Al-Hariri as the country’s prime minister and called on political parties to support his nomination instead of Al-Safadi.
Meanwhile, the country’s current situation is deteriorating both economically and politically. Reuters quoted Nabih Berri, the parliamentary speaker as saying, “Things are becoming more complex and a swift solution is needed to rescue Lebanon from this crisis.”
According to Bloomberg, almost immediately after reports emerged of Safadi’s candidacy, a video went viral on social media on his role in a controversial arms deal and construction along the coast that’s been at the centre of protests against the illegal privatisation of public property. Social media users on Twitter, denounced him as unsuitable to be the country’s next prime minister.
The country’s banks announced that they will re-open their doors to customers tomorrow after providing them and their staff members with suitable protection. The security forces announced, that they would maintain police patrols near all the country’s banks to protect staff members.
Currently, banks have been closed again after they resumed trading on November 1st , over safety and security concerns for bank employees. Banks have imposed restrictions on transfers abroad as well as US dollar withdrawals in order to safeguard the country’s economic situation.
This decision ignited bank depositors’ anger and they started attacking bank staff. Due to the closure of the banks, trade is at a standstill due to a shortage of hard currency and the Lebanese pound has depreciated on the black market as concerns rise that the country is heading toward a debt crisis.
Political disagreements and delay in the appointment of a new government have delayed economic reform plans, essential for regaining investors’ trust and unlocking some $11 billion in international aid promised at a donor conference convened last year.
Reuters reported, that Standard and Poor (S&P) Global Ratings announced on November 15th that it had lowered Lebanon's long-term and short-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings to “CCC/C” from “B-/B”, referring to the escalating financial and monetary risks. S&P Global Ratings issued a statement in which it said, the outlook on Lebanon is negative as it mirrors the risk to Lebanon's creditworthiness from rising financial and monetary pressures tied to recent widespread protests and the resignation of the government.