Lebanon began consultations Monday to name a new premier, with the country's envoy to Germany, Mustapha Adib, emerging as a front-runner, as French President Emmanuel Macron was to visit the disaster-hit country.
Adib, a relatively unknown 48-year-old Lebanese diplomat and close aide to former prime minister Najib Mikati, has received backing from the country's Sunni Muslim political heavyweights, including the Future Movement party headed by former premier Saad Hariri.
On Monday, Hariri officially nominated Adib to be Lebanon’s next prime minister, adding that a new government should be formed quickly.
Lebanon has experienced similar political shake-ups in the past, including the nomination of outgoing prime minister, Hassan Diab, after Hariri’s resignation in October following mass protests sparked by the country’s crippling financial crisis.
Under the country's multi-confessional political system, the prime minister must be a Sunni, the presidency is reserved for a Maronite Christian and the post of parliamentary speaker goes to a Shiite.
President Michel Aoun and the country’s powerful Hezbollah-Amal Shiite bloc have both vowed to agree on any nominee supported by the country's top Sunni political figures.
This time, the power equations are slightly different, explained FRANCE 24’s Leila Molana-Allen, reporting from Beirut. “Last time, Hassan Diab was chosen by the two main parliamentary blocs, who are the Hezbollah-Amal Shia alliance and the FPM [Free Patriot Movement], the Christian party that President Aoun comes from. This time, previous Sunni prime ministers came out and said they have chosen Mr. Adib,” in addition to the Shiite bloc, explained Molana-Allen. “So at least he has a more united bloc on both sides of parliament who support him.”
A majority of lawmakers must decide on whom to name as premier before Aoun tasks the candidate with forming a new government, an often drawn-out process that can take months.
Adib holds a PhD in political science and taught at a Lebanese university before being named in 2013 as Lebanon's ambassador in Germany.
A country in a deep crisis
The nomination followed contacts by French President Macron over the past 48 hours to press Lebanese leaders to agree on a candidate, according to local media reports.
Last week, contacts among Lebanese leaders to agree a new prime minister were deadlocked.
The previous government led by Diab quit on August 10 following the devastating Beirut port blasts in which a massive amount of unsafely stored chemicals detonated.
That disaster came amid the country's worst economic crisis in decades as well as the coronavirus outbreak and at a time of widespread popular discontent with Lebanon's entire political class.
Those who have taken to the streets in mass protests since October 17 against the politicians they deem corrupt and inept have already rejected any name that might emerge from the parliamentary consultations.
Macron notes 'constraints of a confessional system'
Macron arrives in Lebanon late Monday for his second visit since the Beirut blasts.
A French presidency source said Macron had been in contact by phone with the main protagonists on Saturday and Sunday. "The president is informed of the negotiations underway in Beirut," the source said.
On Friday, Macron spoke of the "constraints of a confessional system" in a country populated by Christians, Sunni and Shiite Muslims.
"If we let Lebanon go in the region and if we somehow leave it in the hands of the depravity of regional powers, it will be civil war," Macron said.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)
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