Lebanon’s prime minister designate resigns amid impasse

France had been trying to help break political stalemate in crisis-hit country

Lebanon’s president Michel Aoun (left) meeting with prime minister designate Mustapha Adib at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut. Photograph: AFP via Getty Images

Lebanon’s president Michel Aoun (left) meeting with prime minister designate Mustapha Adib at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut. Photograph: AFP via Getty Images

 

Lebanon’s prime minister-designate has resigned amid a political impasse over government formation, nearly a month after he took on the role.

Mustapha Adib had tried to line up a non-partisan cabinet and his resignation comes as a blow to a French bid aimed at rallying sectarian leaders to tackle the worst crisis since the nation’s 1975-1990 civil war.

Mr Adib, former ambassador to Berlin, was picked on August 31st to form a cabinet after French president Emmanuel Macron’s intervention secured a consensus on naming him in a country where power is shared out between Muslims and Christians.

Under the French roadmap, the new government would take swift steps to tackle corruption and implement reforms needed to trigger billions of dollars of international aid to fix an economy that has been crushed by a mountain of debt.

Lebanon faced a further knock when a huge explosion on August 4th at Beirut port ruined a swathe of the capital.

Mr Adib, a Sunni Muslim under the sectarian power-sharing system, announced he was stepping down but said Lebanon must not abandon the French plan or squander Mr Macron’s goodwill.

“I stress that this initiative must continue,” he said after meeting president Michel Aoun, a Christian. He wished his successor well in the “hard task” of forming a government.

Politicians, whose loyalties tend to run along confessional lines, had promised Paris they would have a government in place by mid-September.

But Mr Adib’s efforts stumbled in a dispute over appointments, particularly the post of finance minister, who will have a key role in drawing up an economic rescue plan.

“It’s a setback, but we’re not giving up. These people need to realise that this is bigger than Lebanon,” a French diplomatic source after Mr Adib’s resignation.

Talks with the International Monetary Fund on a vital bailout package stalled this year, and one of the cabinet’s first tasks would have been to restart the negotiations.

The cabinet formation hit a roadblock over a demand by Lebanon’s two main Shia groups, Amal and Hezbollah, that they name several ministers, including finance, a position previously held by a Shia.

Mr Adib held several meetings with Shia politicians but failed to reach agreement on how the minister would be chosen.

Shia leaders feared being sidelined as Mr Adib sought to shake up appointments to ministries, some of which have been controlled by the same faction for years, politicians said. – Reuters