Lebanon picks Salam as new prime minister

Former culture minister received 124 votes out of 128 members of Lebanon’s parliament.

Former culture minister Tammam Salam has been designated as prime minister of Lebanon, Al Jazeera has learned.

Salam received 124 votes out of the 128 members of Lebanon’s parliament. 

In his first speech following his designation, Salam promised to safeguard the country’s security from the effects of the raging war in neighbouring Syria.

“There is a need to bring Lebanon out of its state of division and political fragmentation, as reflected on the security situation, and to ward off the risks brought by the tragic situation in the neighbouring (country) and by regional tensions,” Salam said.

“I have accepted this nomination… out of conviction that it is my duty to work for my country’s interest, in cooperation with all political parties,” he said.

President Michel Suleiman has now tasked Salam to form a new unified government.

Until then, the caretaker Najib Mikati’s government will continue to run the administrative government.

Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut said, Salam’s support to become the next prime minister is “overwhelming”.

Amin, however, said the “seemingly very strong consensus” hides the many difficulties ahead.

“All those people who support him and endorse him, expect different things from him,” our correspondent said. “He has to steer a very difficult Lebanon”.

Salam was appointed two weeks after the resignation of Mikati, whose two years in office were dominated by efforts to contain sectarian tensions, violence and economic fallout from the conflict in neighbouring Syria.

Salam’s next task, if he is able to form a cabinet accepted by Lebanon’s rival political forces, will be to prepare for a parliamentary election which is due in June but faces likely delay.

No agreement has been reached yet on an electoral system under which the vote will take place. 

Divided politics

Salam, born in 1945 into a prominent Sunni political dynasty, served as culture minister between 2008 and 2009. He is the son of former prime minister Saeb Salam, who served six times as Lebanese premier.

He is close to the Saudi- and Western-backed March 14 coalition but was seen as a consensus candidate and also won the backing of the March 8 bloc, which includes the Iranian-backed Shia-backed Hezbollah group.

But a source in the March 8 group said that despite the broad support for Salam’s nomination, he might face a lengthy struggle to form a government.

His predecessor, Mikati, took five months assemble his ministerial team.

Our correspondent, Rula Amin, also said Lebanon’s internal politics is also being divided by the war in neighbouring Syria. 

“The differences here in Lebanon over what’s happening in Syria have brought a lot of sectarian and political tensions to Lebanon,” Amin said.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies