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Lebanon: Khatib to Be Named PM, Difficulties to Face Cabinet Birth

Lebanon: Khatib to Be Named PM, Difficulties to Face Cabinet Birth

Saturday, 7 December, 2019 - 09:45
Police intervene after supporters of the Lebanese Shiite groups Hezbollah and Amal fought with protesters at a roadblock on the main road in Beirut, during ongoing anti-government protest, Lebanon October 29, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

The postponement of the binding parliamentary consultations to name a new prime minister until Monday has raised doubts over difficulties to form the upcoming cabinet, amid reports that the initial aim was to market for a new candidate, namely Beirut MP Fouad Makhzoumi.

The latter has held extensive talks in Beirut and headed on Saturday to Rome, where caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil is participating in an international conference.

On the other hand, ministerial sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that businessman Samir Khatib remained the only consensual figure to form the new government, unless escalatory measures by protesters lead to the re-postponement of Monday’s consultations.

The sources underlined that caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri would support the nomination of Khatib.

They stressed that Hariri wanted “to get the country out of the vicious circle,” adding: “The major crises that Lebanon is going through are in need of a government that is able to provide solutions, even in stages, and that the extension of the caretaker government means taking the country into a deadly vacuum.”

But Khatib’s appointment will not be as easy as it looks. Former Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s bloc insists on naming Hariri, while the Lebanese Forces and the Kataeb parties reject any politically-impregnated government, out of their conviction that only a technocrat cabinet would meet the demands of the street and save the country from a further deterioration of the economic situation.

Other parliamentary blocs and independents are yet to announce their position, while Taymour Jumblatt’s Democratic Gathering is likely to support Khatib, despite its implicit sympathy with the street movement.

As for the Shiite duo, represented by Hezbollah and Amal movement, it would support the candidacy of Khatib, unless emerging developments before the completion of the consultations reshuffled the papers. The two parties would have preferred Hariri to assume the premiership, due to several considerations, including the good harmony between them under the caretaker government.

However, the appointment of the new prime minister is only the first step in a much-complicated phase to agree on the new government lineup, in light of the protesters’ rejection of any “despised” figures and the premier’s ability to discard those persons.

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