Lebanese leaders have formed a new government, ending the political impasse that has gripped the country since the explosion of the port of Beirut more than a year ago.
Najib Mikati, a billionaire tycoon, will be prime minister. He will be responsible for bringing the small Mediterranean country out of its worst economic and financial crisis since its civil war of 1975-1990.
Mikati and President Michel Aoun agreed on the new government in the presence of Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri, Lebanese channel MTV reported. After signing the decree at the presidential palace in Baabda, Mikati said he would try to prevent the country’s economic collapse.
“The situation is difficult, it is very difficult,” Mikati told reporters at the palace, her voice choked. “However, it is not impossible if we unite. … Our priority is to alleviate the suffering of the Lebanese people. “
Lebanon has been ruled by an interim government since former Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned in August 2020 amid protests demanding accountability for the Beirut explosion, which authorities attribute to a stockpile of highly explosive ammonium nitrate inappropriately stored in Lebanon’s most vital port. At least 215 people died in the explosion, which caused billions of dollars in damage and added to the country’s already dire economic situation.
Mikati, who was appointed Prime Minister-designate in June, has already held the post twice. He was Acting Prime Minister for three months in 2005 following the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Mikati was elected prime minister in 2011 but resigned in 2013 under pressure from Hezbollah.
In the Lebanese power-sharing system, the post of prime minister must be occupied by a Sunni Muslim. The president must be a Maronite Christian and the president of the Shiite Muslim parliament.
Youssef Khalil, a senior Central Bank official, will assume the duties of Minister of Finance. Abdallah Bouhabib, who served as Lebanese Ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 1990, was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs. The new Minister of Health, Firass Abiad, has headed Lebanon’s main public hospital battling the novel coronavirus.
The new government will face pressure from the former colonial power France, the United States and other international donors to implement significant economic reforms and anti-corruption measures. Since October 2019, the Lebanese currency has lost more than 90% of its value. About half of the population lives below the poverty line.
“We will use every second to call international organizations,” Mikati said.