Lebanon’s president holds talks to name prime minister

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon’s president on Thursday began consultations with members of parliamentary blocs to appoint a new prime minister after last month’s parliamentary elections.

Outgoing Prime Minister Najib Mikati is expected to gain the greatest support from lawmakers to form a new cabinet that will be in power until the end of October, when President Michel Aoun’s six-year term ends. Such a short term in office could make it difficult for the billionaire prime minister to form a cabinet as it usually takes months to form a government in Lebanon due to political bickering.

Another candidate for the position is former Lebanon ambassador to the UN Nawaf Salam, who is backed by some independents, as well as the nationalist Kataeb party and the bloc backed by Druze leader Walid Joumblatt.

The main mission of the new government will be to continue discussions with the International Monetary Fund on an economic recovery plan for Lebanon, which is in the throes of the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history.

Mikati has the backing of the powerful Iranian-backed Hezbollah group and its Shia ally, the Amal movement of parliament speaker Nabih Berri. Mikati also has the support of some Sunni lawmakers.

One of the two largest Christian blocs, the Saudi-backed Lebanese Armed Forces party, said it will not name a candidate, while it was unclear who will name the bloc led by Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement. The head of FPM, lawmaker Gebran Bassil, said he would not name Mikati.

Several lawmakers have said they will not name a candidate for the position of prime minister.

Mikati’s previous government, which he formed in September, became an interim cabinet after the May 15 parliamentary elections that gave the majority of seats in the legislature to mainstream political groups blamed for decades of corruption and mismanagement that led to economic collapse.

In last month’s vote, Hezbollah and its allies also lost the majority seats in parliament they had held since 2018.

Lebanon’s economic collapse that began in October 2019 was described by the World Bank as one of the worst in the world since the 1850s. Since then, the Lebanese pound has lost more than 90% of its value, tens of thousands have lost their jobs and many have lost it. small country of 6 million people, including 1 million Syrian refugees.

The crisis was exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and a massive explosion in August 2020 that killed more than 200 people, injured thousands and destroyed Beirut’s port and damaged parts of the capital.

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