The soap opera of the formation of the Lebanese government, this appalling spectacle which has lasted for almost a year, against a background of economic and social decomposition of the country of the Cedar, is not about to stop. Thursday, July 15, the Prime Minister designate, Saad Hariri, leader of the Sunni camp, gave up forming a cabinet, due to insurmountable disagreements with President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law Gibran Bassil, boss of the main Christian party.

Appointed in October 2020, already three times prime minister, Saad Hariri was to succeed Hassan Diab, forced to resign by the explosion in the port of Beirut on August 4, 2020, which left more than two hundred dead and devastated several neighborhoods in the capital.

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Its withdrawal, after nine months of negotiations as heated as they were in vain, promises to exacerbate the daunting crisis in Lebanon, marked by a collapse of the pound, hyperinflation, and shortages of gasoline and drugs.

This decision risks further delaying the passage of crucial reforms, a condition set by foreign donors to unlock the billions of dollars in aid promised in recent years to the Beirut authorities. Considered by the World Bank as one of the worst in modern history, the Lebanese recession wiped out the purchasing power of the population, which fell to more than 50% below the poverty line.

Quarrel with President Aoun

Saad Hariri recused himself after a short interview with Michel Aoun, during which they opposed, for the umpteenth time, a project for the distribution of portfolios, which the first had submitted the day before to the second. “I offered him more time to think it over and he said: We won’t be able to agree, at Saad Hariri said on leaving the presidential palace. That’s why I apologized for not being able to form the government. “ Michel Aoun’s services responded in a statement that Mr. Hariri “Was not ready to discuss any amendment. What is the point of an extra day if the door to discussions is closed? “

Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri (right) and President Michel Aoun, at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, July 15, 2021.

The feud between the two men was over how to designate Christian ministers, who are constitutionally supposed to be half the government. The president, who poses as a defender of this community – whose powers were revised downwards by the Taif agreement, which ended the civil war – demanded that this prerogative be entirely his. The Prime Minister-designate, anxious to restore luster to this post, traditionally reserved for a Sunni, after an unsuccessful term between 2016 and 2020, rejected this request.

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