The Free Patriotic Movement said on Saturday it would not back the nomination of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri to lead a government to tackle Lebanon's crises, further complicating efforts to agree on a new premier.
Hariri, who quit as prime minister last October in the face of nationwide protests, has said he is ready to lead a government of experts to implement reforms proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron as a way to unlock badly needed international aid.
But Hariri has failed to win backing from the two main Christian parties - the FPM and the Lebanese Forces.
Parliamentary consultations to name a new prime minister were due to be held last Thursday, but President Michel Aoun postponed the discussions after receiving requests for a delay from some blocs.
The FPM, which is led by Aoun's son-in-law Gebran Bassil, said Saturday it could not back a political figure such as Hariri because Macron's proposal had called for a reformist government made up of and led by "specialists.”
As a result, the party's political council "decided unanimously not to nominate Hariri", a statement said, adding that Aoun's week-long postponement would not lead the party to reconsider its position.
Hariri could still secure a parliamentary majority if Hezbollah and its ally Amal movement led by Speaker Nabih Berri endorse him for the premiership. But the absence of support from either of the main Christian blocs would hand him at best a fragile mandate to tackle Lebanon's crises.
The country has plunged into financial turmoil and the value of the Lebanese pound has collapsed. The coronavirus pandemic and a huge explosion at Beirut's port on Aug. 4 have compounded the crises and increased unemployment and poverty.
Hariri, who has served twice as prime minister, resigned two weeks after huge protests erupted against the ruling elite exactly a year ago.
Early this year, PM Hassan Diab formed a government that collapsed after the devastating Aug. 4 blast. Mustafa Adib, Lebanon's ambassador to Germany, was tasked last month with forming a cabinet of experts in line with Macron's plan, but he gave up the mission after Hezbollah and Amal insisted on naming the Shiite ministers and wanting to keep the finance portfolio with the Shiite sect.