The richest man in Lebanon, the most ruined country in the Middle East, has once again been commissioned to form a government. The Sunni Muslim billionaire Nayib Mikati, who has served as acting prime minister since the May 15 elections were called, this Thursday added the support of 54 of the 128 deputies of the Beirut Legislature after the consultations held by the Lebanese president , former Maronite Christian General Michel Aoun. Mikati has already served in office three times – in 2005, between 2011 and 2014, and since September of last year – but will have many difficulties to revalidate a fourth term. After three years of economic and institutional crisis, the results of the last elections have aggravated the fragmentation of Parliament, where the pro-Iranian militia party Hezbollah and its allies have lost the majority, while the representatives of the former Christian phalanxes of the civil war of Lebanon (1975-1990) have come out stronger.
“We face a challenge: we are heading towards a gradual salvation (of the economy) or towards collapse,” Mikati said as soon as he received the presidential commission. “We have wasted too much time and too many opportunities to receive support from other countries,” he warned in remarks quoted by Reuters. “The message they send us is very clear: they will help us if we help ourselves,” he added. The outgoing government that he has led reached an agreement in principle with the International Monetary Fund in April to receive a financing program of 3,000 million dollars (2,855 million euros) if the new Executive emerged from the polls promotes a broad package of economic reforms and policies.
The last elections, the first held after the outbreak of the biggest crisis that the country has experienced since the civil war, reflected the discontent of the Lebanese with the confessional distribution system of power established three decades ago after the conflict and dominated by corruption and clientelism. Abstention reached 59% of the census and a dozen independent candidates, arising from the 2019 protests against the sectarian regime model, defeated the candidates of the traditional parties, which have led Lebanon to the brink of the abyss of a failed state. . Eight out of 10 citizens have been thrown below the threshold of severe poverty, with the Lebanese pound devalued by more than 90% in the last three years, with accumulated inflation exceeding 200%, and with bank deposits frozen in a playpen.
The explosion that devastated the port of Beirut in 2020, with a balance of more than 200 deaths and 5,000 million euros in material damage, acted as a catalyst for electoral mobilization in favor of independent candidates. Lebanon now only offers emigration as an alternative to poverty. 63% of citizens between the ages of 18 and 30 recognize that they are thinking of leaving the country, according to a survey.
The results of the legislative anticipate the prolongation of the political blockade to invest a prime minister, who must necessarily belong to the Sunni community. Mikati, 66, became the main Lebanese fortune after selling his telecommunications company, Investcom, in 2005 for 4,650 million euros. With a moderate profile within the Sunni camp – led by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri until his political withdrawal at the beginning of 2022 – he also embodies the power-sharing system between 18 confessional and ethnic groups that has led Lebanon to the ruin and misrule. The end of Aoun’s presidential term, on October 31, threatens to shatter Mikati’s expectations of forming a stable government, a process that usually takes months in the complex Lebanese interfaith balance of power.
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