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Lebanon Nominates Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati to Form Government Again

Lebanon Nominates Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati to Form Government Again #Lebanon #Nominates #Caretaker #Prime #Minister #Najib #Mikati #Form #Government Welcome to Lopoid

BEIRUT—Lebanon’s political factions nominated billionaire businessman and caretaker Prime Minister

Najib Mikati

to form the next government, after last month’s election threw up no clear winner and raised fears of another period of political uncertainty as the country struggles with an economic collapse.

President

Michel Aoun

on Thursday tapped Mr. Mikati with forming a new government after a majority of the newly elected lawmakers backed him. Mr. Mikati was heading the previous administration, which took charge of the country in September to end a more than yearlong political deadlock. He remained in office in caretaker capacity after the May 15 parliamentary election.

“We no longer have the luxury of time, delay, and drowning in conditions and demands,” Mr. Mikati said after meeting the president.

Mr. Mikati faces the challenge of naming a cabinet that is acceptable to those who control the levers of power in Lebanon’s sectarian-based political system. Senior government positions are divided between the country’s main religious groups, with the prime minister always a Sunni, the president a Maronite Christian and the speaker of Parliament a Shiite.

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In the past, power-sharing deals have often taken months or longer to hash out. A prolonged impasse could derail the reforms needed to unlock the billions of dollars in international aid and loans that could help alleviate the tiny Middle Eastern country’s economic woes.

Mr. Mikati has led the country as prime minister on three previous occasions, including in the past year. But the makeup of Lebanon’s Parliament has changed after the May election, the country’s first since the onset of a once-in-a-century economic collapse and the deadly 2020 Beirut port explosion sparked widespread demands for accountability from those in power.

A pro-Hezbollah alliance, which supported Mr. Mikati’s nomination as prime minister last year, has lost its parliamentary majority. While the Iran-backed militant and political group maintained its tally in the 128-member Parliament, its allies and partners, especially the Free Patriotic Movement—a Maronite Christian party founded by Mr. Aoun—lost some seats.

Meanwhile, the FPM’s main rival, the Lebanese Forces, a right-wing Christian party aligned with Saudi Arabia, was among the big gainers.

Mr. Aoun’s term expires in October. A new president, who has to be a Christian, would need the support of a majority in Parliament and approval of the prime minister.

Hezbollah voted again for Mr. Mikati, while the Lebanese Forces bloc in Parliament didn’t name anyone, according to Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency.

Mr. Mikati previously served as prime minister in 2005 and from 2011 until 2014, and took office again in July 2021. He belongs to one of Lebanon’s richest business families and hails from Lebanon’s poorest city, Tripoli. He was accused by a public prosecutor in 2019 of embezzling money from a state-backed housing fund, allegations that Mr. Mikati denied.

If he manages to form a government, Mr. Mikati is expected to continue to negotiate with Western donors and the International Monetary Fund for billions of dollars in aid and loans. His government in April secured a preliminary approval from the IMF for a $3 billion facility, but would need to roll out some tough reforms in return.

Lebanon is undergoing an economic crisis that the World Bank said may be one of the three worst the world has seen in the past 150 years. Between 2018 and 2020, the economy shrank by around 40%, the organization said. The economic collapse has pushed millions of people into poverty. It resulted in rationing and scarcity of medicines and other goods as the government has lacked the funds to pay for imports.

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Appeared in the June 24, 2022, print edition as ‘Caretaker Premier In Lebanon Asked To Form Cabinet.’

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