Lebanon's ambassador to Germany Mustapha Adib is poised to be designated prime minister on Monday after winning the support of major parties to form a new government facing a crippling financial crisis and the aftermath of the Beirut port explosion.
Adib is set to be designated just ahead of a visit by French President Emmanuel Macron, who is center stage in international efforts to press Lebanese politicians to address a crisis seen as the worst since the 1975-90 civil war.
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The previous government led by Hassan Diab quit on August 10 over the port blast in which a massive amount of unsafely stored chemicals detonated.
The post of prime minister must go to a Sunni Muslim in Lebanon's sectarian system. Adib's candidacy won vital political backing on Sunday from former prime ministers including Saad al-Hariri, who heads the biggest Sunni party, the Future Movement.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian, is due to meet parliamentary blocs on Monday in the official consultations to designate the new premier. He is required to nominate the candidate with biggest level of support among MPs.
On Sunday, Aoun called for a reform in Lebanon’s system of government, moving away from its deep-rooted division of power along sectarian lines.
In a televised address, Aoun said the Taif Agreement of 1989, which ended the Lebanese civil war and was intended to ensure political representation for all of the country’s ethnic and religious groups, has given way to sectarianism and corruption. Aoun called for the proclamation of a “secular state, which will root out sectarianism.”
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Lebanon's dominant Shi'ite parties, the Iran-backed Hezbollah and the Amal Movement led by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, will both name Adib at the consultations, a senior Shi'ite source said.
The Christian Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), a political ally of Hezbollah which was founded by Aoun and is led today by his son-in-law Gebran Bassil, will do the same, Bassil told Reuters.
Adib has a doctorate in law and political science and previously served as an adviser to Najib Mikati, a former prime minister. He has served as ambassador to Germany since 2013.
Once designated, the process of forming a new government will get underway. Until a new administration is agreed, the Diab government continues in a caretaker capacity.
Lebanon's financial crisis is seen as the biggest threat to its stability since the civil war. The currency has lost as much as 80% of its value since October and savers have been locked out their deposits in a paralyzed banking system. Poverty and unemployment have soared.
Lebanon launched talks with the International Monetary Fund in May, after defaulting on its huge debt, aiming to secure financial support but these have stalled amid divisions on the Lebanese side over the scale of losses in the financial system.