Le­banon’s ma­jor par­ties back Saad Hariri for PM

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Le­banon’s two ma­jor par­lia­men­tary blocs on Tues­day named Saad Hariri, a for­mer prime min­is­ter and a Sunni leader, as their can­di­date for pre­mier in the gov­ern­ment be­ing formed after a new pres­i­dent was elected. The widely ex­pected en­dorse­ment by the Fu­ture bloc, led by Hariri, and the ma­jor­ity Chris­tian bloc comes a day after Michel Aoun was elected pres­i­dent.

Hariri was promised the post in ex­change for back­ing Aoun’s pres­i­den­tial bid in par­lia­ment, end­ing a two-and-half-year dead­lock that left Le­banon with­out a pres­i­dent. Aoun is re­ceiv­ing the dif­fer­ent par­lia­men­tary blocs Wed­nes­day be­fore nam­ing the prime min­is­ter, likely be­fore the week­end. In the coun­try’s sec­tar­ian-based po­lit­i­cal sys­tem, the prime min­is­ter, al­ways a Sunni, is likely to face a daunt­ing job, bal­anc­ing dif­fer­ent and of­ten ri­val groups, to form a new Cab­i­net.

Ge­bran Bas­sil, who heads the Free Pa­tri­otic Move­ment of Aoun, said they back Hariri’s nom­i­na­tion for the pre­mier post. “We ac­cept who­ever ac­cepts us. All our votes will go to Hariri be­cause he rec­og­nized us and we will side with him in all the dif­fi­cul­ties he will face,” Bas­sil told re­porters. Le­banon has been with­out a head of state since May 2014. Ac­cord­ing to the power shar­ing sys­tem gov­ern­ing Le­banese pol­i­tics since the 1990s, the pres­i­dent must be a Ma­ronite Chris­tian.

Par­lia­ment failed in 45 dif­fer­ent ses­sions to vote for a pres­i­dent, amid po­lit­i­cal in­fight­ing and boy­cotts, be­fore Mon­day’s elec­tion of Aoun. Hariri’s about-face in sup­port of Aoun last month broke the dead­lock and changed the po­lit­i­cal land­scape in Le­banon, bring­ing old-time foes on the same side, while al­lies dif­fered. Hariri, 46, served as prime min­is­ter briefly be­tween late 2009 and 2011, when his gov­ern­ment was brought down by pow­er­ful Le­banese Hezbol­lah group, now a ma­jor Aoun backer. He since left Le­banon, and was a vo­cal critic of Hezbol­lah. He re­turned ear­lier this year, sound­ing a more con­cil­ia­tory tone.

Hariri is the son of late Prime Min­is­ter Rafik Hariri, who was as­sas­si­nated in Fe­bru­ary 2005 with mas­sive bomb on a Beirut sea­side street. The UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil wel­comed Aoun’s elec­tion as “a long-awaited and crit­i­cal step to over­come Le­banon’s po­lit­i­cal and in­sti­tu­tional cri­sis.” It urged the new pres­i­dent to pro­mote the coun­try’s sta­bil­ity and swiftly form a unity gov­ern­ment and elect a par­lia­ment by May 2017, say­ing these steps “are crit­i­cal for Le­banon’s sta­bil­ity and re­silience to with­stand re­gional chal­lenges.”

— AP

BEIRUT: In this photo re­leased by the Le­banese Par­lia­ment me­dia of­fice, for­mer Le­banese Prime Min­is­ter and law­maker Saad Hariri, cen­ter, casts his vote dur­ing a ses­sion to elect new pres­i­dent at the par­lia­ment hall.

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