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Najib Mikati appointed to form a government team in Lebanon




Najib Mikati will have to form a government capable of bringing Lebanon out of its socio-economic impasse (photo: Presidency of Lebanon)
Najib Mikati will have to form a government capable of bringing Lebanon out of its socio-economic impasse (photo: Presidency of Lebanon)
LEBANON. To remedy the political stalemate that is sinking the country economically every day, Lebanese President Michel Aoun appointed, on Monday 26 July 2021, Najib Mikati to form the next government. During the preliminary parliamentary consultations, the consensus was indeed on his name. Seventy-two members of parliament were in favour of his name, while forty-two abstained.

Member of the Azm Movement party, the new President of the Council of Ministers is a Sunni Muslim, as is the Lebanese political tradition reserving the post of President of the country to a Maronite Christian and that of President of Parliament to a Shiite. Even if Michel Aoun had declared that he wanted to put an end to this political system of confessionalism at the end of August 2020. The president had also made an exception in December 2019 by appointing Hassan Diab, a Shiite, to the post of President of the Council of Ministers. An inconclusive experiment, since he had to resign after the explosions in the port of Beirut in August 2020.

Since the failure of Saad Hariri, after ten months of negotiations to form a team with the support of the main parliamentary blocs (Sunnis, Shiites, Christians), and that of Mustapha Adib appointed following the resignation of Hassan Diab, Lebanon must deal with an interim governance expediting current affairs. This is an antiphon for a country in default of payment since March 2020 and suffocated by its socio-economic problems.
 

Essential reforms to obtain international aid

Najib Mikati (65) is far from being an unknown. He has already been President of the Lebanese Council of Ministers twice (3 months from April to July 2005 and from June 2011 to February 2014). And this is precisely where the problem lies. The street has been demanding for two years now a complete renewal of the political class, accused of corruption and incompetence. The arrival of the billionaire (creator with his brother Taha in 1982 of the Investcom company which gave birth to the family telecommunications and real estate group M1) does not therefore arouse the favour of the demonstrators. Especially since the man, a friend of Bashar al-Assad, was accused in November 2019 of financial malpractice for embezzling public funds intended for the purchase of real estate, via loans subsidized by the Bank of Lebanon, and normally intended to finance Lebanese in need. The European Parliament suspected him in January 2020 of also misappropriating funds intended to finance a waste reprocessing programme in northern Lebanon. The cases are ongoing.

The new Prime Minister must present his list of ministers and his programme within a month. He has already announced that he wants to "implement the French initiative", the one advocated by Emmanuel Macron during his visit in September 2020 and including several economic reforms. They are a condition for the arrival of international aid - essential to get out of the catastrophic situation in which the country of the Cedar is entangled - estimated at around ten billion dollars.
"If I had not had the necessary external guarantees (...) I would not have assumed" this responsibility, Najib Mikati said. Before adding, "I need the confidence of the people (...) Alone I could not work miracles."
 

Talking to the IMF to avoid a financial collapse

In Paris, the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs reacted to his appointment with a clear message: "The urgency is now to form a competent government capable of implementing the reforms essential to the recovery of the country, which all Lebanese expect (...) France will remain for its part at the side of the Lebanese, as it has always been.

Nabila Massrali, the European Union's Foreign Affairs and Security Policy spokesperson, spoke in unison. "It is now of crucial importance that a credible and accountable government is formed without delay in Lebanon, one that is capable of addressing the serious economic and social crises facing the country. We call on the Lebanese political leaders to cooperate and allow the rapid formation of a credible and competent government, in the interest of the Lebanese people," she said in a statement. According to the EU representative, "the implementation of key governance and economic reforms remains of the utmost urgency, as long called for by the International Support Group for Lebanon, the EU and other members of the international community. Effective talks for an early agreement with the International Monetary Fund must begin immediately to avoid a financial collapse."

Nabila Massrali also wishes to recall in her message that "Lebanon is committed to implementing the Reform, Recovery and Reconstruction Framework (3RF) and that the reform process in Lebanon must closely involve the country's civil society. Preparations for the 2022 elections must begin in earnest in order to ensure that these elections are held on schedule." The EU says it stands ready to help the Lebanese people, "but it is imperative that Lebanese leaders assume their political responsibilities and pave the way for a rapid resolution of the crisis."

A new conference of donors, states and international institutions will meet on 4 August 2021.

Frédéric Dubessy


Tuesday, July 27th 2021



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