Saad Hariri has given up on forming a government in Lebanon

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Saad Hariri, Lebanon’s prime minister-designate of forming a government last October, stepped down on Thursday after a confrontation with President Michel Aoun. On the day he was due to present his new executive. Hariri’s resignation worsens the political and economic crisis in Lebanon, which a provisional government has led with limited powers since a massive explosion destroyed part of the port of Beirut last August, resulting in the resignation of the government of Hassan Diab.

Hariri is one of the best-known figures in Lebanese politics. Son of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri (killed in 2005 by the political-terrorist group Hezbollah), he held the post himself several times, between 2009 and 2011 and between 2016 and 2019. After the resignation of the Diab government, Hariri emerged as the most likely candidate to form an executive. In October, President Aoun had given him the job, and nine months of grueling political negotiations followed.

Finally, on Thursday, Hariri said he was ready to present the new government to President Aoun. The international community also expected the moment, which hoped that the end of the political stalemate would relieve the severe economic crisis in the country. Anthony Blinken, the US secretary of state, and Yves Le Drian, the French foreign minister, had sent a joint statement shortly before the meeting between Hariri and Aoun urging the parties to speed up the formation of the government.

However, Thursday’s match between Hariri and Aoun lasted just 20 minutes. Hariri came out of this by resigning from office. He and Aoun accused each other of causing the negotiations to fail.Aoun said he would convene parliament to look for a new candidate for government formation, but finding one could be more complicated than expected.

According to the Lebanese legal system, which provides that the main institutional offices are assigned on a sectarian basis, the prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim. But Hariri is the most influential Sunni politician in the country, and it is unlikely that anyone else will step forward without his consent.

Following the announcement of Hariri’s renunciation, the Lebanese pound plunged to a new low: the currency has lost more than 90 percent of its value since last September. Hariri supporters took to the streets on Thursday evening to protest, blocking some roads in Beirut and burning some cars. The army intervened and tried to control the protests by firing warning shots in the air.

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