Lebanese President Michel Aoun has told Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri to form a new cabinet immediately or else make way as soon as possible, amid growing anger over the country’s intensifying economic crisis.
Aoun and Hariri have been at loggerheads over government formation for almost five months, leaving Lebanon rudderless as it sinks deeper into financial collapse.
“If prime minister-designate Hariri finds himself unable to form a government … he should make way for those who are,” Aoun said in a televised speech on Wednesday after inviting him to the presidential palace for immediate talks on the matter.
Lebanon is in the throes of a deep economic crisis that is posing the biggest threat to its stability since the 1975-1990 civil war. A new government could implement urgently-needed reforms and unlock international aid.
The government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned on the back of an enormous explosion at Beirut’s port in August last year that killed 200 people, wounded thousands more and ravaged buildings in surrounding residential neighbourhoods.
Diab’s cabinet has stayed on in a caretaker capacity until a successor is formed but fractious politicians have been unable to agree on a government since Hariri’s nomination in October.
A veteran politician, Hariri had stepped down as prime minister in 2019 under street pressure after mass protests erupted demanding the overhaul of a political class accused of being inept and corrupt.
“My call is determined and truthful to the prime minister-designate to choose immediately one of the two choices, as silence is not an option after today,” Aoun said.
The financial crisis has wiped out jobs, locked people out of their bank deposits, slashed almost 90 percent of the value of the Lebanese currency and raised the risk of widespread hunger.
The pace of unravelling has escalated in the past two weeks with the Lebanese pound losing a third of its value against the US dollar, shops closing down and protesters blocking roadways.