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BEIRUT: Lebanese President Michel Aoun will hold binding consultations with members of the country’s recently elected parliament to appoint a new prime minister on June 23.
Acting Prime Minister Najib Mikati is widely seen as the frontrunner for the job.
Once appointed, the new Prime Minister must form a government, a process that often takes several months.
However, the new government will last only four months, as its term will end with the end of the presidential term in October.
After Saad Hariri, leader of the Future Movement, declared the suspension of his political career and that of his party, political groups began looking for a Sunni figure likely to be appointed head of the new government.
By convention, the prime minister of Lebanon is a Sunni Muslim.
Independent Sunni MP Abdul Rahman Al-Bizri told Arab News that the appointment of a new prime minister is still ongoing and that talks are underway between various groups “to reach a formula that relieves Lebanon”.
He said: “We are living in difficult times and traditional political forces tend to reappoint interim Prime Minister Najib Mikati.”
A political observer said this week could see political agreements to form the government due to “the weakness of the Sunnis in the political equation”.
A meeting on Wednesday between Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Abdullatif Darian and Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid Bukhari was of particular significance as it coincided with the launch of the process to appoint the new prime minister.
Bukhari underlined “the important role of the Grand Mufti in strengthening the unity of the Lebanese and Islamic position, especially during the difficult times that Lebanon is going through”.
He said Saudi Arabia hopes to see “the unity of the Lebanese people in the face of the challenges they face”, and praised the mufti’s efforts to guarantee national unity and ensure civil peace in the country.
Doubts remain over how the parliamentary blocs will handle the process of appointing the new prime minister. So far, there has been no agreement between opposition forces on a candidate, and there is no guarantee that Mikati will be reappointed despite being the clear favourite.
MP Ibrahim Mneimneh told Arab News: “Legislators on the ‘Together for Change’ list have not formed a unified bloc. However, they establish contacts and consultations to reach a unified position. We want an apolitical personality who has a program adapted to the new era and whose government can bring reforms, the most important thing for Lebanon.
Those who don’t want a prime minister with those qualifications “will take the country into the unknown”, Mneimneh said.
“They have proven that they are irresponsible who have led the country to ruin.”
The MP said the minimum expected of the new government is to introduce economic reforms in line with the requirements of the International Monetary Fund.
“We may not elect a new president in due time. Therefore, the term of the government could be extended,” he said.
However, previous governments whose leaders were appointed by Hezbollah and its allies failed and disagreements developed between its ministers despite being on the same side. This is what happened with the Mikati government whose call was “together for salvation”.
In a recent interview, Gebran Bassil, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, criticized Mikati for his refusal to grant Bassil’s party the energy portfolio in the new government.