Beirut | Lebanese politicians on Monday appointed a new prime minister, Ambassador to Germany Moustapha Adib, under pressure from French President Emmanuel Macron expected Monday evening in Beirut.
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Mr Adib, a relatively unknown 48-year-old scholar, was nominated by the majority of MPs after parliamentary consultations held at the presidential palace.
Immediately after his appointment, the new Prime Minister went to a neighborhood devastated by the deadly explosion at the port of Beirut on August 4, where he declared “wanting the confidence” of the population.
“Now is the time for action”, declared the new Prime Minister, pledging to quickly form a team of experts and competent people, who would carry out “immediate reforms”.
“The task that I have accepted is based on the fact that all political forces (…) are aware of the need to form a government in record time and to start implementing reforms, with as a starting point an agreement with the International Monetary Fund, ”Adib said in a televised speech.
Mr. Macron, whose second visit to Lebanon since the explosion, had urged the Lebanese leaders to quickly constitute a “mission government” to get the country out of the economic and political crisis.
Moustapha Adib was chosen Sunday evening by the heavyweights of the Sunni community, from which the head of government must come, the presidency going to a Maronite Christian and the presidency of the parliament to a Shia Muslim.
But this university professor, close to the former Prime Minister and billionaire Najib Mikati, of whom he was the chief of staff, should be rejected by the popular protest movement.
Hassan Sinno, a member of a civil society group, warned that the latter would refuse any candidate from the system.
“We will not give Hassan Diab time, as some of us mistakenly did, to succeed. We no longer have the luxury of time, ”he told AFP.
Former prime minister Hassan Diab, appointed by the ruling parties, resigned on August 10 after the explosion that left at least 188 dead and devastated entire neighborhoods of the capital.
The tragedy, due to the presence of an enormous quantity of ammonium nitrate at the port of Beirut in the eyes of those responsible, has fueled the anger of the population, who accuses the political class of negligence and corruption.
Mr. Macron, like other foreign officials who have succeeded in Beirut since, stressed the need for in-depth reforms. He wants “a mission government, clean, efficient, capable of implementing the necessary reforms in Lebanon,” according to an Elysee source.
“The devil who preaches virtue”
Mr. Adib obtained the approval of the main parliamentary blocs. Only the Christian party of the Lebanese Forces, which has swung into opposition since the popular uprising in October 2019, has appointed the independent Nawaf Salam, a former ambassador to the UN supported by the protest.
The French president, expected Monday evening in Beirut, will go to the home of the iconic singer Fairouz, a rare symbol of unity in a fragmented country. On Tuesday, he is due to meet with political leaders.
He spoke on Friday of the “constraints of a denominational system” which led “to a situation where there is hardly any (political) renewal”.
On Sunday, President Aoun, 85, deaf until then to calls for reform, recognized in a speech on the occasion of the centenary of Lebanon, celebrated on Tuesday, the need to change the political system. More and more scolded since the disaster of August 4, he even called for the proclamation of a “secular state”.
A few hours earlier, the head of powerful Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, had said he was ready to discuss a new “political pact” in Lebanon, where religious communities are sharing power.
But some believe that these are lip service announcements on the occasion of Mr. Macron’s visit.
“When the political class speaks of a secular state, it makes me think of the devil who advocates virtue, it does not make sense”, says Hilal Khashan, professor of political science at the American University of Beirut.
The appointment of Mr. Adib “will not usher in a new era in the history of Lebanon and I do not believe that it will place Lebanon on the road to real political development”, he continues.