BEIRUT – Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri resigned on Thursday in what he described as a “major disagreement” with the president, deepening the political crisis that has left the Lebanese government in power for nine months after enduring a relentless economic downturn.
With no clear candidate to replace Hariri, Lebanon is likely to sink deeper into chaos and uncertainty. The prospects of forming a government to talk about the reforms and negotiations desperately needed for a recovery package with the International Monetary Fund are now even more remote.
Poverty has risen in recent months, and the crisis over drugs, energy and electricity has been described by the World Bank as the worst economic crisis in 150 years.
“I have forgiven myself for forming the government,” Hariri said after a 20-minute meeting with President Michel Aoun. “God help the country.”
Later, Hariri al-Jabed, one of Lebanon’s most prominent Sunni Muslim leaders, told TV that he had no intention of approving the replacement. According to Lebanon’s communal-based political system, the prime minister has been elected by the Sunnis.
Without Hariri’s support, the possibility of forming a government would have been more remote. Aoun said he would soon set a date for consultations with the parliamentary bloc on the appointment of a new prime minister.
Hariri told TV that his block after it happened “shows us what to do in consultation with our friends and allies.”
Following the news of Hariri’s resignation, protesters – mostly his supporters – blocked roads in several parts of Beirut and set fire to tires, deepening the crisis. Troops have been deployed along the coast of Beirut to disperse protesters, firing into the air and using armored vehicles to clear the streets. Protesters pelted soldiers with stones.
The national currency has fallen to a new low since the crisis began in late 2011, with more than ড 20,000 sold on the black market. The price of the Leganese pound has fallen by more than 90% against the dollar over the past 30 years.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, whose country ruled Lebanon for nearly 25 years before independence after World War II, called the failure to form a new government “proof” of Lebanon’s inability to find leaders. The solution to the crisis they have created. “
“They have completely failed to acknowledge the political and economic situation in their country,” he told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York after chairing a meeting of the Security Council in Libya.
“A few days after the first anniversary of the Beirut bombing at the port, we have killed and injured thousands of people at the port,” Le Drian said. “The way it’s going is illegal destruction and it’s now one more step.”
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called Hariri’s resignation “another disappointing development for the Lebanese people.”
“It is critical to form a government now committed and capable of implementing pioneering reforms,” Blinken said in a statement.
In the latest move to end the stalemate, Hariri proposed a 24-member cabinet to Aoun on Wednesday and said he would expect a response from the president by Thursday.
Auden, who blamed Harry for the stalemate, said the prime minister had rejected the idea of changing any name on the proposed list, indicating that he had already planned to resign and “sought an excuse to justify his decision.”
An international call has called on Lebanese leaders to form a new government. In an unusual move, French and U.S. ambassadors to Beirut recently traveled to Saudi Arabia to hold talks in Lebanon with Saudi officials. The two said there was a “desperate need” for a new, reformist government to bring Lebanon out of the economic and financial crisis.
But for months the effort has been hampered by a power struggle between Hariri on the one hand and Aon, the head of the largest bloc in parliament on the other, and his son-in-law Zebran Basil.
They have stuck the horn on the size of the cabinet that will oversee the revised reforms and elections for next year. Each side blames the other for the stalemate, which has paralyzed Lebanon and even accelerated defecation and increased inflation.
Nabil Bau Monsef, a political commentator for An-Nahar newspaper, says naming a new prime minister will now be even more difficult.
“We cannot form a government or find an alternative to Saad Hariri,” he said. “President Michel Aoun will now consider himself victorious in getting rid of Saad Hariri. But in reality, (Aoun) has opened the door to hell for the whole country and his rule.”
Regional and international mediation has failed to bridge the gap between Lebanese leaders. EU foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell said during a visit to Lebanon last month that a power struggle and a case of strong mistrust were at the center of the political crisis.
Hariri, 51, has served as prime minister twice for the first time since 2009-11.
His second visit came in 2016, in an uneasy partnership with Aoun, an ally of the Iranian-backed Shiite militant group Hezbollah. This time, Hariri backed Aoun as president and ended almost two years without Lebanon’s head of state, when he took over as prime minister.
In 2013, in the wake of tensions between Saudi Arabia and its regional rival Iran, Hariri abruptly resigned in a televised address from Riyadh, accusing Hezbollah of holding Lebanon hostage. The move was seen by the Saudis as a coup d’tat and a quick return to power, but it signaled the end of his traditional alliance with the Sunni regional powerhouse.
Then, in October 2019, Hariri resigned, bowing to protests across the country demanding greater action. One year later, a few months after the resignation of Hassan Diab’s government in the wake of an explosion at the port of Beirut on Thursday, August 4, parliament re-elected him. A bomb blast near the northern city of Lebanon has killed at least 200 people and injured dozens more. An investigation is underway into the cause.
Negotiations with the IMF also stalled after Diab’s resignation. No one was left to deal with the crisis of years of stagnant cycle of stagnation and corruption. By 2020, Lebanon’s economy had shrunk by more than 20% and poverty had deepened, with more than 55% of the population living below the poverty line.