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Lebanese President: Consultations Postponed until December 16

Power struggle in Lebanon prevents the formation of a new government despite widespread continuous pressure from demonstrators

The Lebanese president postponed the parliamentary consultations scheduled for Monday to assign a person to form a new government until December 16 amid vows by protesters to continue demonstrating until a new, independent government is formed.

According to the General Directorate of the Lebanese Presidency, President Michel Aoun made the decision “in light of new developments in the government’s affairs” and based on a demand by most of the parliamentary blocs to allow for consultations between the blocs on who should be nominated to form the new government.

“The Lebanese government continues in the manner of quotas and partisanship, that is, the same old way of dealing with matters,” Nada Naseef, a Lebanese political activist and demonstrator, told The Media Line. She continued, “I heard in the news that [former prime minister] Saad al-Hariri is going to be the only candidate. Well, that’s the usual and classic talk of the government and we reject it completely.”

Naseef explained that the original aim of the Lebanese revolution was to form a government of independent Lebanese with legislative powers to advance the country and address its crisis. “Otherwise, we will go back to the streets. We refuse Saad al-Hariri as prime minister,” she said.

She added that the demonstrators reject Hariri since he was prime minister of the government that led to the failure of the country’s economy and brought the current situation.

Mass demonstrations in Lebanon began on October 17 to protest government corruption, mismanagement, sectarianism, and foreign influence, and in response to a proposed tax on use of the WhatsApp messaging platform. The government of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, facing massive criticism, resigned on October 29.

On Sunday evening, Lebanese businessman Samir Khatib, who was nominated to form the next government by the head of the caretaker government, Hariri, said that he was subjected to an “unfair campaign from some biased people,” and declined the nomination.

This came after Khatib met with Hariri at his residence in the capital, Beirut, where he informed the latter about his meeting with the Grand Mufti of Lebanon Sheikh Abdul Latif Deryan, who informed Khatib that, as a result of consultations with (Sunni) sect members, it was agreed to name Hariri to form the new government.

Ali Amin, a Lebanese writer and political analyst, told The Media Line that there is a political struggle within the Lebanese government, between Hariri, on one side, and Hezbollah and the president, on the other side.

“Meanwhile, the street demands a technocratic government of independent people, so the crisis is real and persistent,” Amin said.

Khatib, Amin said, withdrew his name from consideration as his chance to succeed [in forming the next government] was very minimal because of Sunni objections to him. “Khatib preferred not to continue. However, this indicates that Hariri is seeking to be in power again, because If Hariri [truly] wanted him, Khatib would have been the person to form the new government without any objections.”

Amin added that because Khatib was suggested by the government, his candidacy would have been met with widespread objection by the demonstrators. “In any case, Khatib’s nomination would have been weak and he wouldn’t have been able to form a government.”

Amin believes that, based on the current situation, forming a new government is impossible, which means that the caretaker government will remain until developments occur that can change the balance of power.