BEIRUT — Lebanon’s president held long-delayed talks with parliamentary blocs on Thursday to discuss the naming of a new prime minister amid a rapidly worsening political and economic crisis and weeks of nationwide protests roiling the country.
The meeting comes after caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri withdrew his name for the nomination as the blocs could not agree on backing him. The protesters on the streets have already rejected his nomination.
Talks between President Michel Aoun and representatives of the 128-member parliament were delayed twice as Lebanon saw some of the worst violence since protests erupted in mid-October. The clashes have involved security forces and anti-government protesters, as well as supporters of Lebanon’s two main Shiite groups, Hezbollah and Amal.
Hassan Diab, a university professor and former minister of education, has emerged as a possible candidate. For a nomination, he needs the backing of at least half of the lawmakers. In Lebanon’s sectarian-based political system, the prime minister has to be from the Sunni Muslim community.
“May God make everyone successful,” said Hariri after briefly meeting with Aoun earlier on Thursday.
However, Hariri’s bloc of 18 lawmakers as well as another Sunni bloc with three seats, headed by former Prime Minister Najib Mikati, declined to name a favorite in the talks with Aoun. That would likely mean that Diab or any other nominee would lack support from the Sunnis, one of the three major sects in parliament, and would face huge challenges in forming a new government.
Lebanese politicians have been unable to agree on a new government since Hariri resigned in late October in response to the protests, which were initially sparked by a tanking economy and united the Lebanese against their leaders.
The Western-backed Hariri had until this week hoped to be named premier again but failed to get the support from Christian parliamentary blocs.
“It has become clear to me that, despite my categorical commitment to forming a government of specialists, the positions … are not changing, I therefore announce that I will not be a candidate to form the next government,” Hariri said in a statement Wednesday.
Protesters in the streets say they want new faces to govern Lebanon, one of the world’s most indebted countries in the world.
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