Lebanon’s presidency says parliamentary consultations will begin next week to choose a new prime minister, a week after Saad al-Hariri gave up on cabinet formation as the cash-strapped Arab country has yet to overcome a persisting political standoff.
On Monday, a statement from the office of President Michel Aoun said he would be holding formal consultations in the presidential palace to designate a new prime minister on July 26.
Hariri announced on Thursday that he was unable to reach an agreement with the president on the formation of a new cabinet, and stepped down nine months after he was assigned to the task.
Back in May, the 51-year-old Hariri, a veteran Sunni Muslim politician, said he would not form a government that simply complies with the wishes of the president, a Maronite Christian, nor any other political faction.
Hariri, whose country struggles with a deepening economic crisis, was tasked with forming a government for the fourth time in October 2020. That was one year after he resigned as prime minister amid mass protests.
The decision to begin parliamentary consultation next week is yet another attempt to push Lebanon’s divided political class to form a government to rescue the country from a financial meltdown.
A caretaker administration has run the small country for nearly a year, while the currency has collapsed, jobs have vanished and banks have frozen accounts.
Under Lebanon’s sectarian system, the premier must be a Sunni Muslim. Aoun is required to choose the candidate with the greatest support from legislators.
The Mediterranean country plunged into a political vacuum in August 2020, when the previous administration, led by then Prime Minister Hassan Diab, resigned following a devastating explosion at the port in Beirut that destroyed swathes of the capital and left more than 200 people dead.
The World Bank has already called Lebanon’s crisis one of the worst depressions of modern history, ranking it among the world’s three worst since the mid-1800s in terms of its effect on living standards.
The country’s currency has lost more than 90 percent of its value since fall 2019 and more than half of the population has been rendered jobless as businesses have shut down.
Half of the population is now living below the poverty line as prices are skyrocketing and the COVID-19 pandemic rages in the country.