Photo: Dalati & Nohra

Lebanon may see new government formed within the next 48 hours

A political source informed The Daily Star that Lebanon could see a new government formed within the next 48 hours, largely as a result of U.S. and French pressure on political parties to speed up the process, in light of ambassador Dorothy Shea’s latest visit to Lebanon.

“The government formation is very, very close and barring any disastrous surprises, an announcement on the Cabinet formation should be upcoming in next 48 hours,” the source told The Daily Star.

Lebanon has been without a government for over a year now, since the previous government headed by caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned in light of the disastrous negligence surrounding the August 4 port explosion. 

Since then, President Aoun has appointed three different Prime Ministers: Mostapha Adib, Saad el Hariri and Najib Mikati. The former two resigned while the latter remains in talks with Aoun over the formation of a government that grants the president eight ministers with the remaining 16 to be dispersed amongst the ruling political parties.

Over the past year, Lebanon has sunk further into its worst economic and financial crisis in recent history, which has pushed almost three quarters (74 percent) of the population below the poverty line amidst shortages of fuel, medicine and food. The absence of the government has only further aggravated the crisis, prompting the lira’s freefall against the dollar.

In the aftermath of the Beirut blast, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his deep support for Lebanon, launching an initiative to help the country combat its multifaceted crisis.

The initiative was launched during Macron’s visit to Lebanon in September of last year, and called for the formation of a “mission government” made up of nonpartisan specialists capable of coming up with reforms to help Lebanon combat the crisis.

Macron, amongst other high ranking officials in the European Union, have been pleading with Lebanese leaders to quickly take action and push for government formation to end the political deadlock, to no avail. 

Similarly, US Ambassador Dorothy Shea expressed similar concerns following her visit to Lebanon last month, where she met with President Aoun and Premier-designate Mikati, then calling for the swift formation of a new government capable of handling the burdens of a rescue plan.

The last time Mikati met with Aoun was on August 26, where they engaged in further talks on the cabinet lineup. The main reason the lineup has been stalled so far is due to a dispute between the two over who would control the Economy and Social Affairs ministries.

Mikati is reportedly insisting on the Economy Ministry so he could have a hand in the talks with the International Monetary Fund on a $10 billion bailout package to save the country’s economy. 

Head of General Security, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, is reportedly mediating talks between the two to help resolve the Cabinet crisis.