Lebanon’s new PM faces raft of competing priorities

Mustapha Adib must satisfy international donors and also deal with warring camps

Lebanese prime minister Mustapha Adib has to form a government quickly.  Photograph: AP

Lebanese prime minister Mustapha Adib has to form a government quickly. Photograph: AP

 

Mustapha Adib is an emergency consensus prime minister chosen by Lebanon’s discredited political elite to form a government empowered to enact just enough reforms to secure €18 billion in financial aid to rescue the country’s collapsing economy.

Since he is not widely known and has no political base, Adib is seen as a safe appointment by politicians determined to retain power and avoid accountability for decades of mismanagement and corruption.

Mustapha Alloush, a senior figure in the Sunni Future Movement, summed up the attitude of the ruling class when he told Arab News the premier designate would have to be “a person who has no political ambition”.

Adib has to form a government quickly. Bankrupt Lebanon cannot afford months of bickering over ministries, a traditional timeframe for cabinet making, before key decisions can be taken. To meet conditions set by the International Monetary Fund and a consortium of international investors before funds can be released, Adib has to choose independents free of graft and draw up a credible reform plan.

He begins consultations over appointments in a strong position as he was designated by 90 members of Lebanon’s 128-seat parliament. But those supporters could desert him if he displeases them.

Devastating blast

His predecessor, Hassan Diab, failed because he was backed mainly by the Christian-Shia bloc and its allies, his technocratic government comprised factional appointees, and he could not meet donor demands. His government resigned six days after the August 4th blast in Beirut port that devastated nearby neighbourhoods, killed more than 180 people, wounded several thousand and rendered 300,000 homeless.

To avoid Diab’s fate, Adib will have to not only satisfy donors but also deal with warring camps on the domestic front. He can expect to face insubordination from the political elite if he tries to seek major changes as well as rejection by influential public figures.

The eldest son of assassinated prime minister Rafik Hariri and brother of ex-premier Saad Hariri, Bahaa Hariri, has accused Adib of being “another proxy for Lebanon’s old system”.

He has already been rejected by activists who see him as another representative of the quota model which has bedevilled the country’s politics since independence. They seek to oust Lebanon’s politicians and overthrow the sectarian system of governance.

More than 30 groups that emerged last October to protest at incompetence and graft have formed a revolutionary movement which has drawn up its own list of nominees for a new government and agreed on a common programme.

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