Prime Minister Saad Hariri

Out with the old, in with the old: Hariri returns to power

Less than a year since nationwide protests forced his resignation, Saad Hariri is set to return to his old position as Lebanon’s new prime minister-designate.

The former prime minister secured slim support during Thursday’s parliamentary consultations, earning 65 out of 120 possible votes. Hariri was backed by former prime ministers Najib Mikati and Tammam Salam, Deputy Speaker Elie Ferzli, his own Future Movement, the Progressive Socialist Party, the Marada Movement, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, the Tashnag bloc, the Amal Movement, and MPs Eddy Demerjian, Michel Daher, Nouhad Machnouk, Jihad al-Samad, and Jean Talouzian.

Those who did not vote for Hariri, abstained from suggesting an alternative. According to the Presidential Palace, 53 abstained from voting and two absences were recorded.

Hariri vowed to follow through on the roadmap of political reforms pushed by French President Emmanuel Macron and the international community, in hopes of bringing in international aid to Lebanon.

After his resignation in late 2019, Lebanon burned through two prime ministers.

Caretaker PM Hassan Diab, a “technocrat” backed by Hezbollah and its allies, resigned after the Beirut port explosion left 300,000 homeless, thousands injured, and over 200 dead.

Former Prime Minister designate Mustapha Adib, a diplomat, stepped down before he could officially assume his role because of a political stalemate over the cabinet formation.

The new PM-designate is expected to form a government that will lead Lebanon out of the worst economic crisis it has experienced since the civil war. However, Lebanon’s economic crisis has been years in the making and Hariri previously served as prime minister for three terms.

Tensions among Lebanon’s sectarian political blocs, including President Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, will also make his job difficult. Among others, FPM refrained from voting for Hariri but suggested no other candidate.

Protesters first took to the streets on October 17, 2019 to demand better living standards, and an end to the political corruption of the ruling class. Many of them also oppose Hariri’s return. 

Yesterday night, men chanting pro-Hariri slogans set fire to the revolution fist erected to symbolize Lebanon’s uprising. The Future Movement denied that their supporters vandalized the artwork.

“Today, I am required to designate (a prime minister) and then participate in the formation of a government,” said President Aoun, who delayed consultations by a week, before Hariri was agreed upon. “Will the one who is nominated commit to addressing corruption and launching reform?”

In the past year alone, the Lebanese lira has lost 80 percent of its value, half the Lebanese population is now living in poverty, and both unemployment rates and the price of food have skyrocketed.