BEIRUT: The Lebanese ambassador to Germany appeared called on to become the next prime minister of the country in crisis after gaining support from senior Sunni politicians on Sunday.
Mustapha Adib was appointed by four former prime ministers on the eve of binding consultations between the president and parliamentary blocs on their choice for the post.
The announcement came a day before the planned arrival of French President Emmanuel Macron for a two-day visit, during which he was to pressure Lebanese officials to formulate a new political pact to get the country out of its multiple crises, political dead ends and entrenched corruption and mismanagement.
This is Macron’s second visit to the former French protectorate in less than a month. It came days after the devastating August 4 explosion in the port of Beirut that killed 190 people, injured 6,000 and pulverized parts of the capital.
The government resigned less than a week after the explosion.
Earlier on Sunday, the leader of the powerful Hezbollah group, Hassan Nasrallah, said his Shia organization would cooperate and facilitate the formation of a government capable of improving economic conditions and undertaking major reforms.
Hezbollah and its allies supported the outgoing government.
Adib is the only name to emerge as a favorite so far for the post of prime minister, who according to Lebanon’s sectarian power-sharing system must be a Sunni Muslim.
The candidate who gets the most support is asked to form the new government, but Lebanon’s divided political class has often been bogged down over who holds the highest political posts.
“The aim of political and national action at this stage must be to save Lebanon from what is suffering,” said Fouad Siniora, a former prime minister, reading a joint statement.
The Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah, which plays a dominant role in Lebanese politics, has come under intense criticism and public scrutiny as the country faces multiple devastating crises.
An unprecedented economic crisis has already cost the Lebanese currency more than 80% of its value, causing unemployment, poverty and inflation to explode.
Coronavirus infections and deaths have also increased, raising concerns and prompting authorities to reintroduce some restrictions on economic and social activities that have been largely ignored amid the crisis.
And the recent explosion seriously damaged the port of Beirut, the small import-dependent country’s main trade channel.
Feeling the pressure, Nasrallah vowed that Hezbollah would cooperate to avoid a political vacuum.
“Whether it is by appointing a prime minister or by forming a government, we will be cooperative and facilitate the exit of the country from the void,” he said in a speech on Sunday.
Nasrallah said his group was also open to calls from France for a new political contract in Lebanon, provided all Lebanese factions are on board.
On Sunday, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia said more than half of the Lebanese population was at risk of not having access to basic food needs by the end of 2020, as the rate d Average annual inflation is expected to reach 50% from 2.9% in 2019.
ESCWA said the average food price increased by 141% between July 2019 and 2020 and that it expects the Beirut explosion to push up the prices of basic foodstuffs further.
The government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab, supported by Hezbollah and its allies, resigned on August 10, six days after the explosion of nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate in the port of Beirut, where they had been stored for six years.
Adib, Ambassador of Lebanon to Germany since 2013, was an advisor to one of the former prime ministers of Lebanon, Najib Mikati.
He participated in the committee responsible for drafting the new Lebanese electoral law in 2005 and 2006, and was its chief of staff in 2011.
Mikati resigned in 2013 at the height of the Syrian war after a two-year stint as prime minister in a government dominated by the Hezbollah group and its allies.
The war next door had heightened sectarian tensions between Lebanon’s political rivals who supported opposing sides of the Syrian conflict.
Adib, 48, from the northern city of Tripoli, holds a doctorate in law and political science and has taught at universities in Lebanon and France.