Lebanon to Designate New PM Ahead of Macron Visit

BEIRUT (Reuters) -
Members of the Lebanese army rest in Beirut’s port area, in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, at the damaged site of the massive blast. (Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool)

Lebanon Ambassador to Germany Mustapha Adib is set to be designated prime minister on Monday ahead of a visit to Beirut by the French president who will press for long-delayed reforms to steer the Middle East nation out of its deep crisis.

Emmanuel Macron, who is to arrive late on Monday, has taken center stage in international efforts to get Lebanon’s fractious leaders to address a financial crisis that had devastated the economy even before a massive blast at Beirut port on Aug. 4 killed about 190 people.

Adib emerged as front runner for the post of premier after being nominated on Sunday by former prime ministers, including Saad al-Hariri who heads Lebanon’s biggest Sunni Muslim party. The post of prime minister must go to a Sunni.

Hariri’s Future Movement, the powerful Iranian-backed Shiite party Hezbollah and the Progressive Socialist Party led by Druze politician Walid Jumblatt were among the first to nominate Adib in formal consultations hosted by President Michel Aoun on Monday.

Aoun, a Maronite Christian, must designate the candidate with greatest support among lawmakers. Adib appeared on course for an overwhelming majority.

Senior Lebanese officials said Macron had pressed Lebanese leaders to agree on a candidate in the 48 hours before consensus emerged on Adib. Last week, Lebanese leaders were deadlocked over who should be the next prime minister.

Macron will meet politicians on Tuesday.

After meeting with Lebanon’s president on Monday, Hariri called for the quick formation of a government of specialist ministers.

Adib has a doctorate in law and political science and previously served as an adviser to Mikati. He has served as ambassador to Germany since 2013.

The Christian Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), a political ally of Hezbollah which was founded by Aoun, will do the same, said Gebran Bassil, Aoun’s son-in-law and the party leader.

Once designated, the process of forming a new government will start. Until a new administration is agreed, the outgoing government, which quit on Aug. 10, continues in a caretaker capacity.

Lebanon’s financial crisis has sunk the currency by as much as 80% since October, locked savers out of their deposits in a paralyzed banking system and fuelled poverty and unemployment.