Lebanon PM-designate steps down amid impasse over gov’t formation

Clay Curtis
September 27, 2020

Lebanon's PM-designate Mustapha Adib, who was set to take the helm of a rescue government, has stepped down after failing to break a political stalemate over the formation of a new cabinet.

The crisis has been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic and more recently by the August 4 explosion at Beirut's port caused by the detonation of thousands of tons of ammonium nitrates.

Even before last month's blast, Lebanon was already mired in its worst economic crisis since the civil war and battling the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Adib, a Sunni according to Lebanon's sectarian power-sharing system and former diplomat who is supported by Macron, got the backing of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and was appointed to form a cabinet on August 31.

"As the efforts to form a government reached their final phase, it became apparent to me that this consensus. was no longer there and that forming one according to the criteria I had determined was bound to fail". "These people need to realize that this is bigger than Lebanon", a French diplomatic source after Adib's resignation.

"It is indispensable to have a government capable of receiving global aid".

The country is in desperate need of financial assistance but France and other worldwide powers have refused to provide aid before serious reforms are made.

"The initiative launched by French President Emmanuel Macron is still ongoing and still receives my full support", it quoted Aoun as saying.

"I stress that this initiative must continue", he said after meeting President Michel Aoun, a Christian.

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"There was a chance, there was a lot of pressure to form a government and it didn't happen", he said, adding there was a "bigger problem" of geopolitical tensions, especially between the United States and Iran.

Politicians had promised Paris they would have a government in place by mid-September.

Under the French roadmap, the new government would take swift steps to tackle corruption and implement reforms needed to trigger billions of dollars of worldwide aid to fix an economy that has been crushed by a mountain of debt.

Local media report that disagreement with Shiite Muslims over the appointment of a finance minister was a major stumbling block for Adib.

Amal leader and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said his group still backed the French plan, while Suleiman Frangieh - head of a Christian group allied to Hezbollah - called the initiative a "golden opportunity that Lebanon must not lose".

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The blast also overwhelmed Beirut's hospitals and badly damaged two that had a key role in handling virus cases.

In a televised address, he criticized his political allies, Hezbollah and Amal, for insisting on holding on to the Finance Ministry portfolio in any new government, but also criticized Adib for attempting to form a government and impose names for cabinet positions without consulting with the parliamentary blocs.

The economic situation is severe in Lebanon, with 55 percent of the population of five million living below the poverty line, and more than 30 percent unemployed, a situation that finally drove the grassroots population into the streets with protests over and over again over the past year - and that was before the Beirut Port blast.

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