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Interview

New Lebanon PM Enjoys Support, Expertise To Form Govt.: Expert

Monday 23 December 2019
New Lebanon PM Enjoys Support, Expertise To Form Govt.: Expert

Alwaght- Nearly two months after the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister from his post that caused administration vacuum in the already crisis-hit country, the parliament on Thursday agreed to name Hassam Diab for the post. The designation comes as, over the past week, rejuvenated protests erupted in the country, leading to night-time clashes between the demonstrators and the security forces. 

Alwaght has talked to Mosaib Naeimi, an expert on the Lebanese affairs, asking him about the aspects and implications of this designation. 

Asked why Hariri, who after resignation had a big chance to get the post again and form a new government, dropped a potential bid, Mr Naeimi said that the Lebanese protests started against the ruling elites’ corruption and Hariri’s friends and allies were among those under corruption charges. Hariri made some proposals to address the demands but was rejected. He saw it better to step aside from any new bid to at least meet part of the popular demands. Since the beginning, the lawmakers, understanding that bringing him back to the post will not fix the situation, raised pessimism about a new cabinet headed again by Hariri. The president after negotiations with majority bloc named a new PM. 

“The conditions were not prepared for Hariri and a majority of the protests pointed their fingers of blame on Hariri as a member of the wealthy class accused of abuse of power and public money and of corruption. So, the parliament does not want to risk its life by naming Hariri for the position.” 

Naeimi confirmed comments that Hariri resigned because he wanted to impose a technocratic government on the rival camp March 8 Alliance and the president because he thought that the parliament could not form the government without him. When Michael Aoun became president, Hariri stipulated that he accepts the PM post only if he was given assurances that he will stay in his position until the end of Aoun’s term. But the recent developments transformed the past conditions. The idea of a technocratic government by Harari was impossible since the beginning because Hariri himself is not a technocrat. If there should be a technocratic government, its head should have special expertise, like an economic theorist or an economist. Among those regarded, Diab is closest to this consideration. 

“After consultations with his allies, he found it wise to at least for a term abandon the post and then return when the circumstances are proper. So, stepping down from candidacy was the advice of his fellow party members. In a statement, Hariri told his supporters who asked him to return that he will not head the new government. The conditions were not prepared for Hariri and all agreed that next term goes without him.” 

Mr Naeimi was asked for a comment on the possibility of the formation of a Diab-led government. He said that the cabinet formation process in Lebanon is the traditional with its specific features, namely it should be half Muslim and half Christian. The Shiites, Sunnis, and Christians should have equal members in the cabinet. To launch the process, the PM should consult the parliamentary blocs to get the vote of confidence for his cabinet. 

To form a government, the past formula will be followed with the difference being that the blocs, groups, and religious groups will be asked to name representatives from people of expertise and technocrats. In the past, the figure named for the post did not need to have expertise as a precondition for the position. But now specialized people are required to be named. 

“Diab suggested that the protestors name three ministers for labor, energy, and economy ministries. If this takes place, it will mark a momentous change and will take from the shares of the three main groups. If the people-named ministers fail to make a difference in their areas of expertise, the protestors will lose the pretext to demonstrate. So, these two changes are observable in the new cabinet. In other cases, the past path will be followed, unless the constitution undergoes reforms.” 

Mr Naeimi was asked for comment on the role of Hezbollah, as a heavyweight player in Lebanese politics, in picking Diab for the office. 

“Hezbollah was ok with all options. The movement asserted that a technocratic government is possible with any option, including Hariri. Hezbollah offered to Hariri to form a technocratic government. Some, attempting to block a new cabinet formation, accuse Diab of being Hezbollah man. But he got his Ph.D. from the American University of Beirut. He was a professor of American universities and minister of education in March 14 Alliance-led government. Hezbollah is for anybody who can get the majority, form government, and get the country out of the current crisis.” 

Answering a question about how optimistic the Lebanese could be about formation of new government by Diab in the crisis-hit country to get the economy on the right track and cut the foreign hands, Mr Naeimi said that since the moment Diab was named the Americans started their moves against the Arab country threatening that the sanctions will remain in place if Washington’s demands are not realized. Diab’s sapience here is a crucial factor. 

“When we talk about the home crisis, we can say that Diab is a person who has no negative marks in his political record. He has introduced himself as an academic and promised to lead the country academically. He also is opposed to political dealings. Furthermore, his naming was welcomed by the Shiites, Sunnis, Christians, and even the Druze ethno-religious minority, which means considerable support for Diab. Even those who opposed him vowed that if he gets the majority vote, they will throw their weight behind him. So, he is expected to gain the support of at least 100 members of parliament from a total of 128. If a government with such sizable support is formed, it will play a crucial role in getting the country out of the current crisis.”

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Lebanon Hariri PM Crisis Protests

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