Lebanon's Hariri makes no pick in consultations for new prime minister

Lebanon's Hariri makes no pick in consultations for new prime minister
Lebanon's Hariri makes no pick in consultations for new prime minister

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Saad Hariri’s Future Movement parliamentary block did not submit a nomination for the new prime minister as consolations began at the presidential palace to find a new head of government.

The caretaker prime minister again ruled himself out for the post on Wednesday evening, after a week of tense protests and clashes in Beirut as the two-month mass protest movement against the government continues.

Mr Hariri again called for an administration of technocrats to work on a mandate of fixing the economic crisis, resolving long-running infrastructure issues and rooting out corruption.

“I will participate tomorrow [Thursday] in the parliamentary consultations on this basis, with my insistence that they are not postponed under any pretext whatsoever,” he said in a statement Wednesday.

However, Mr Hariri’s rivals have called for a mixed political and technocratic administration.

A group of parties that made up the largely defunct March 8 movement – including Hezbollah, Amal Movement and the Free Patriotic Movement – reportedly agreed on the nomination of academic and former minister Hassan Diab.

Deputy parliament speaker Elie Ferzli, an independent MP close to the Free Patriotic Movement that was founded by President Michel Aoun, said on Thursday that he had nominated Mr Diab.

Hezbollah too picked Mr Diab.

However, with former prime minister Tammam Salam, also an independent MP, also said he wasn’t casting a vote saying he “[didn’t see] the point of naming a candidate for the premiership in this atmosphere."

Former prime minister Najib Mikati also said he wasn't backing any candidate meaning that the last three heads of government have not cast a vote.

The nine MPs of Walid Joumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party named International Criminal Court Judge Nawaf Salam.

All MPs get a say in selecting a new candidate to try and form the next Lebanese government however they usually pass on their nomination as parliamentary blocs or groupings rather than voting individually.

Once the prime minister-designate is selected, he or she will then set about trying to form a new administration that can get the approval of Parliament.

Mr Hariri resigned on October 29, collapsing the government. Since then Mr Aoun has delayed the binding consultations on Mr Hariri’s successor on several occasions.

Mr Diab is a professor of electrical engineering at the American University of Beirut and also served as the minister of education in the cabinet of Najib Mikati in 2011.

He is seen as close to the March 8 parties, likely the reason he has emerged as their main candidate.

In the past, presidents have been reluctant to select a candidate to lead government that doesn’t have the backing of the Sunni community as the role of prime minister is reserved for that sect under the confessional system. Whether Mr Aoun will break this convention and select a force a new prime minister on the community remains to be seen. Such a move would likely spark significant anger, especially in heartlands of Future Movement support such as Tripoli where protests have been large and sustained.

Without a clear word from Mr Hariri or other Sunni leaders, consultations are likely set for an impasse.

Updated: December 19, 2019 02:22 PM

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