Lebanon establishment tasks Mustapha Adib with forming new gov’t

Beirut, Lebanon – Lebanese diplomat Mustapha Adib was tasked with forming a government with an overwhelming majority of parliamentarians representing the country’s political establishment.

Adib received the votes of 90 deputies out of a possible 120, garnering the support of Hezbollah and its allies, the Free Patriotic Movement and the Amal movement, in addition to the Future Movement of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and a certain number of smaller blocks.

Adib said now is no longer the time for words and promises.

“It is time for work to match efforts and to come together, to give hope to the Lebanese,” Adib told reporters on Monday.

“By the grace of Almighty God, we hope that we will be successful in selecting professionals with proven expertise and effectiveness to implement the necessary financial and economic reforms.”

Seventeen deputies voted for other candidates, including 14 votes from the Lebanese Forces for the judge of the International Court of Justice Nawaf Salam. A dozen deputies voted for nobody or did not show up.

Like his predecessor Hassan Diab, who was appointed with a narrower margin by the country’s establishment following unprecedented anti-government protests that toppled a government last year, Adib, 48, is little known to the public. public.

He has been Lebanon’s Ambassador to Germany since 2013, served for two decades as an advisor to former billionaire prime minister Najib Mikati, and is considered close to the country’s main parties.

Monday’s binding consultations between President Michel Aoun and MPs were little more than a rubber stamp on a decision that had been criticized among the country’s sect leaders ahead of French President Emmanuel Macron’s second visit to Beirut in less than a month.

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Macron arrives Monday evening and has been in direct contact with Lebanese officials since his visit in early August following a massive explosion in Beirut that left at least 190 dead and damaged large parts of the city.

Macron urged Lebanon’s sclerotic politicians to reach a political deal to go through sweeping reforms and end decades of corruption and mismanagement, which drove the country into the deepest economic crisis in its history .

The fallout from the explosion

Adib will now need to form a government capable of pushing through long-awaited economic, financial and governance reforms to unlock international support for the nation affected by the crisis, which was already collapsing before the explosion.

The World Bank estimated on Monday that the explosion caused between $ 3.2 billion and $ 4.6 billion in physical damage, mainly to the transport sector, housing and cultural sites, and incurred an additional $ 2.9 billion to $ 3.2 billion in losses to economic output.

The organization estimated Lebanon’s immediate needs until the end of 2020 at $ 605 million to $ 760 million, including for cash assistance, housing and business support.

Western donors see the resumption of stalled negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, as well as reforms in the electricity and financial sectors, as essential conditions for providing large-scale financial assistance.

Adib’s predecessor Diab has been unable to push through reforms due to the high-level political interference that is common in Lebanon, a country where major decisions are traditionally made between the handful of leaders. sectarians in power rather than governments.

“We know there are political forces behind these governments that don’t necessarily align with the governments they appoint, and that makes it difficult to have an agenda and solutions to these complex issues,” Mike Azar, senior financial advisor, told Al Jazeera.

He noted that Diab’s government had failed because it did not have a clear plan on how to address the country’s challenges, and included a “hodgepodge of different people with different views”, which led to chronic dysfunction.

Uphill struggle

The country faces four major challenges: recovery and reconstruction after the explosion, the criminal investigation of the explosion, the economic reform program and financial restructuring, and the restructuring of the political system itself, which is at the root of most of Lebanon’s current problems.

Most of the necessary reforms will cost politically and personally the key policy makers behind any government that emerges. Without a clear strategy on how Adib intends to meet these challenges in the face of great political resistance, there is no reason to believe that the Adib government will do better than Diab’s.

Adib will therefore find it difficult to push changes forward unless senior politicians agree to them, even if many of these reforms go against their entrenched interests.

Mustapha Adib arrives at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, on Monday after being appointed Lebanon’s new prime minister [Joseph Eid/AFP]

Lebanese President Aoun and powerful Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah have both indicated that they are ready to accept a new political system in Lebanon, as long as it is based on consensus.

But Rima Majed, assistant professor of sociology at the American University of Beirut who was involved in organizing during the Lebanon uprising, said it was clear Adib was chosen to maintain and protect the interests of the class. leader of the country.

“It is still a republic of billionaires, but it is now ruled by their men, their advisers,” Majed told Al Jazeera. “It’s disturbing from a class point of view because they reproduce the system and Adib is clearly coming to preserve the interests of these billionaires, whether it is Hariri, Mikati or [House Speaker Nabih] Berri. ”

She said the Adib government, once formed, would continue the “counter-revolution” that Diab’s government had started, ending any chance of a “political process that includes the uprising”.

This is also partly due to the circumstances: local actors had become more empowered to participate in national politics during the uprising, but the Beirut explosion propelled the process almost entirely to the international level.

“There is something bigger that the uprising is unable to grasp,” she said.

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