Lebanon delays nomination of new PM amid protests, divisions

Beirut, Lebanon – The nomination of Lebanon’s next prime minister has been postponed after major Christian parties said they would not support the candidacy of caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri, presenting a new impasse after weeks of political wrangling.

Hariri resigned on October 29 amid widespread protests against Lebanon‘s ruling elite, but had seemed set to return on Monday after all other candidates failed to secure enough support from the country’s Sunni Muslim establishment.

Under Lebanon’s complex political system, where power is shared among religious groups, the prime minister must always be a Sunni, the president a Maronite Christian and the speaker of Parliament a Shia Muslim. Meanwhile, according to the modern-day interpretation of a key article in the Constitution, there must be parity in the representation of Christians and Muslims in Parliament and government.

This premise of sectarian power-sharing now poses the greatest obstacle to Hariri’s candidacy, as without the support of the major Christian parties in government, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and the Lebanese Forces, the government’s constitutional legitimacy could be called into question.

A statement from Hariri’s office said that the caretaker PM on Monday requested that Aoun postpone the binding parliamentary consultations during which a new prime minister is selected, “in order to avoid adding constitutional and national problems to the great social, economic and financial crisis facing our country”.

Aoun rescheduled the talks for Thursday.