BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon’s president on Thursday began negotiations with members of parliamentary blocs to appoint a new prime minister after last month’s parliamentary elections.
Outgoing Prime Minister Najib Mikati is widely expected to garner the most support from lawmakers to form a new cabinet that will remain in power until the end of October when President Michel Aoun’s six-year term expires. Such a short term could make it difficult for the billionaire prime minister to form a cabinet, as it usually takes months to form a government in Lebanon due to political squabbles.
Another candidate for the post is Nawaf Salam, a former Lebanese ambassador to the United Nations, who has secured a number of independents as well as nationalist Katab and Druze leader Walid Zumblatt The support of the group of support.
The new government’s main task will be to continue negotiations with the International Monetary Fund on Lebanon’s economic recovery plan, which is in the midst of the worst economic and financial crisis in modern history.
Mikati has the backing of the powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah group and its Shiite ally Amal parliament speaker Nabihberi. Mikati also has the support of some Sunni lawmakers.
One of the two largest Christian groups, the Saudi-backed Forza Lebanese party, said it would not nominate any candidates, but it was unclear who the Aoun Free Patriotic Movement-led group would nominate. The head of the FPM, lawmaker Gebran Bassil, said he would not name Mikati.
Several lawmakers said they would not nominate any candidates for the premiership.
Mikati’s previous government, formed in September, became a caretaker cabinet following the May 15 parliamentary elections that awarded most seats in the legislature to mainstream political groups accused of decades of corruption and mismanagement led to an economic collapse.
Last month’s vote also saw Hezbollah and its allies lose their majority in parliament since 2018.
Lebanon’s economic collapse that began in October 2019 was described by the World Bank as one of the worst in the world since the 1850s. Since then, the Lebanese pound has lost more than 90 percent of its value, tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs and many have left the small country of 6 million people, including 1 million Syrian refugees.
The crisis was made worse by the coronavirus pandemic and a massive explosion in August 2020, which killed more than 200 people, injured thousands, and destroyed Beirut’s port and damaged parts of the capital.