Lebanon in deeper crisis as PM-designate Hariri says won’t form government

Middle East

Saad Hariri says he’s unable to agree with President Michel AounGovernment desperately needed to rescue country from financial meltdown

Topic |  Middle East

Agence France-Presse

Agence France-Presse

Published: 11:57am, 16 Jul, 2021

Supporters of Saad Hariri clash with Lebanese soldiers in Beirut. Photo: AP

Supporters of Saad Hariri clash with Lebanese soldiers in Beirut. Photo: AP

Lebanon’s prime minister-designate Saad Hariri stepped down, saying he was unable to form a government, nine months after accepting the challenge and as the country sinks deeper into crisis.

International donors remain adamant that a government must be established before they can provide funding, but political squabbling has repeatedly stymied such efforts and sent the currency to unprecedented lows that leave imported medicine and fuel increasingly unaffordable.

Sporadic clashes between the army and protesters flared Thursday evening, leaving an unspecified number of people wounded, doctors said.

Hariri’s announcement – nearly a year after a deadly explosion at Beirut port forced the last government to resign – takes the political process back to square one and there is a clear risk of many more months of drift.

President Michel Aoun will now have to call on parliament to pick a new premier-designate, who will be tasked with assembling another cabinet, which in turn will have to be approved by the president and political factions.

Hariri’s decision followed a meeting with Aoun over his draft cabinet line-up.EVERY SATURDAYSCMP Global Impact NewsletterBy submitting, you consent to receiving marketing emails from SCMP. If you don’t want these, tick hereSIGN UP NOWBy registering, you agree to our T&C and Privacy Policy

“There were amendments requested by the president, which I considered substantial,” Hariri told reporters after the meeting.

“It is clear that … we will not be able to agree,” he added, noting that the president had expressed the same opinion.

Saad Hariri. Photo: Dalati & Nohra/DPA

Saad Hariri. Photo: Dalati & Nohra/DPA

Aoun’s office hit back, saying Hariri “was not ready to discuss amendments of any kind … (leaving) the door to discussion … closed”.

In an interview with Lebanon’s Al Jadeed TV after the announcement, Hariri once again accused Aoun of hampering the process by insisting on a cabinet share that would effectively give his team a decision-making veto.

The president “wants a blocking third”, Hariri said.

Filipino domestic worker offers glimpse into life in Lebanon5 Mar 2021

“If I formed the government that Michel Aoun wanted … I wouldn’t have been able to run the country, because this isn’t a cabinet I can work with.”

The premier-designate’s exit leaves Lebanon rudderless amid a deepening economic crisis that the World Bank has branded as one of the planet’s worst since the mid-19th century.

The Lebanese pound, officially pegged to the dollar at 1,500, plummeted to a record low beyond 20,000 on the black market after Hariri’s announcement, prompting renewed street protests and road closures.

Lebanese soldiers in Beirut take cover from thrown projectiles. Photo: AP

Lebanese soldiers in Beirut take cover from thrown projectiles. Photo: AP

A few dozen protesters clashed with soldiers who fired rubber bullets to try to clear roads near a major sports stadium in Beirut.

The Lebanese Red Cross, which dispatched three ambulances to the area, said people were wounded, but did not say how many.

US official: Lebanon should not be bailed out financially16 Aug 2020

Hariri had been nominated prime minister designate in October 2020, following the devastating explosion at Beirut port in August caused by unsafely stored fertiliser that killed more than 200 people.

He is the second candidate to fail at forming a government in less than 12 months.

With cabinet berths and parliamentary seats distributed according to religious sects, Hariri’s exit will further complicate negotiations, as he is widely seen as the pivotal representative of the country’s Sunni Muslims.

Protesters block a road with garbage in Beirut. Photo: EPA

Protesters block a road with garbage in Beirut. Photo: EPA

For months, Hariri and Aoun – who is head of the mostly Christian Free Patriotic Movement party – have traded blame for delays in establishing a government.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Lebanon’s “political class has squandered the last nine months”.

“It is critical that a government committed and able to implement priority reforms be formed now,” he added.

The international community has pledged millions of dollars in humanitarian aid since last year’s port blast, but made the money conditional on installing a government capable of tackling corruption.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, foreign minister of ex-colonial power France, said Hariri’s move was proof that “Lebanese officials are unable to find a way out of the crisis,” accusing them of “cynical self-destruction”.

Lebanon government resigns amid fury over Beirut blast11 Aug 2020

A spokesman for the UN late Thursday described the latest political failure as regrettable, and reiterated calls for a government capable of addressing the country’s “numerous challenges” to be put together rapidly.

Hariri, who has previously led three governments in Lebanon, replaced as premier designate Mustapha Adib, a relatively unknown diplomat.

Adib had been nominated in late August but threw in the towel nearly a month later, because of resistance from factions over his proposed line up.

Hariri’s decision came as Lebanon prepares to mark the first anniversary of the August 4 port explosion – its worst peacetime tragedy – which many blame on negligence by political leaders.

While the disaster forced the last government, led by outgoing prime minister Hassan Diab, to resign, he and his cabinet have lingered on in a caretaker capacity.

SOURCE Lebanon in deeper crisis as PM-designate Hariri says won’t form government | South China Morning Post (scmp.com)

Categories: Arab World, Asia, Lebanon, Middle East

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1 reply

  1. Well, I am not really all that impressed by the UN’s action in places such as Kosovo and Timor. However, looking at Lebanon I think it might be essential to kick out all the government of Lebanon and cancel its outdated sectarian constitution. Let the UN take over like in Kosovo, overseas the drafting of a new democratic non-sectarian constitution. Free elections and then hand over to hopefully a new government. Just an idea… What do other readers think?

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