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Sat, 18 Jan 2020 05:39 GMT

Lebanon's Hariri Close to Premiership despite Political Dispute on Cabinet Formation


7Dnews London

Sun, 15 Dec 2019 21:04 GMT

Despite leaving office over protests in late October, Saad al-Hariri, who remains Lebanon’s interim premier, is expected to be named as the government leader on Monday, December 16th.

According to Reuters, consultations between Lebanese President Michel Aoun and lawmakers are set to take place on Monday after being delayed for a week. The agreement on the new prime minister will be based on a consensual candidate to be supported among a majority of the 128 lawmakers.

"It should be clear to anyone who might nominate Hariri tomorrow that he will only form a government of specialists," a source close to Hariri told Reuters.

Hariri’s support base is not recognised, as it is not clear how many lawmakers would back him, although political sources told Reuters that he is close to taking back the position, barring any last-minute surprise in Lebanon's volatile politics.

Political rifts look set to hinder an agreement on a new government badly needed to save the country from a serious economic crisis. Hariri, a Western ally and the leading Sunni Muslim politician, is widely considered by political circles as the only candidate for the post. Hariri disagrees with the Iran-backed Shi'a Hezbollah movement and its allies, including President Michel Aoun, on the make-up of the next government. From Hariri’s point of view, the new government needs specialist ministers who can confront the current political crisis and invite foreign aid to a country with an eroded economy, as Lebanon has one of the highest debt to gross domestic product ratios in the world, with public debt reaching $86 billion.

On the other side, his opponents believe that the new cabinet should be formed with a combination of politicians and experts.

Lebanon needs a new government to pull it out of the worst economic crisis since its 1975-1990 civil war. Foreign donors will only help after there is a cabinet that can enact reforms.

Other attempts to garner support for further candidates other than Hariri have failed.

Sunday saw a renewal of street protests against the ruling elite in Beirut despite the security crackdown on demonstrators the previous night.

Middle East