Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has said the formation of a new government in protest-hit Lebanon will be “no easy feat”, adding that the new cabinet must bring all sides together.
In a televised speech on Friday, the leader of the Shia group insisted that its ally, President Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) – Lebanon‘s largest Christian political bloc – take part in the cabinet.
Speaking before binding parliamentary consultations to nominate a new head of cabinet on Monday, Nasrallah said forming a new cabinet that desperately needed to redress a tumbling economy could take time.
“The consultations are supposed to take place on Monday and we hope that whoever receives most votes will be designated to form a government,” he said. “But the formation will be no easy feat.”
Nasrallah said neither a government that only includes Hezbollah and its allies, nor one that only comprises its rivals, could pull the country from a crisis that “requires that everyone stand together”.
Lebanon has been swept by mass nationwide protests since October 17 demanding the complete overhaul of a political class deemed inept and corrupt.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri stepped down on October 29 under pressure from the popular protests, but bitterly divided political parties have failed to agree on his successor ever since.
The protesters have demanded a government made up solely of experts not affiliated to the country’s traditional political parties, but analysts have warned this could be a tall order.
Noting that the crisis has deteriorated since Hariri’s resignation, Nasrallah said he would support a “government of national partnership”, and one with “the widest possible representation” that did not exclude any of the major parties.
He said it could be headed by Hariri, who remained in a caretaker capacity, or someone the outgoing prime minister designated.
The names of various potential candidates have been circulated in recent weeks, but the Sunni Muslim establishment on Sunday threw their support behind Hariri’s return.
Under the country’s power-sharing system, the prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim.
Nasrallah’s speech came a day after FPM leader and Aoun’s son-in-law Gebran Bassil said the party would not join a new government under the terms set by Hariri, but would not obstruct the formation of a new cabinet.
The position of the FPM could ease the way to the formation of a Hariri-led government.
Lebanon is in urgent need of a new government to pull it from a deepening economic crisis that has shaken confidence in its banking system.
Foreign donors have said they would offer support only after a cabinet able to enact reforms is in place.
The World Bank estimates a third of Lebanese live in poverty and this could rise to half.
It has projected a recession of at least 0.2 percent for 2019.