Hariri resigned following a brief meeting with President Michel Aoun at Baabda Palace.
“I withdrew from government formation,” he told reporters. “Aoun called for amendments, which he considered essential, and said that we will not be able to get along with each other… and may God save this country. “
Aoun accused Hariri of having already decided to step down before their meeting.
“Hariri rejected any amendment related to changes in ministries, their sectarian distribution and names associated with them,” the president’s office said in a statement.
In an interview with Lebanese television station Al Jadeed, Hariri said he selected his candidates based on their expertise and ability to reform the economy, but not Aoun.
“I resigned in 2019 because I wanted a government of experts, and if we formed the government of Michel Aoun then the country will not be saved,” he said.
“The main problem in this country is Michel Aoun, who is allied with Hezbollah, who in turn protects him. That’s the equation in the country and if someone can’t see it, then they’re blind.
Hariri’s office declined to comment on Al Jazeera.
Later Thursday, supporters of Hariri and his Future Movement party took to the streets, blocking roads with burning tires and trash cans in several neighborhoods around Beirut. Several dozen protesters in Beirut Sports City clashed with Lebanese soldiers in riot gear who fired rubber-coated steel bullets.
The main roads south of the capital were also targeted by the demonstrators. Roads in the northern city of Tripoli and the southern city of Sour have also been blocked.
Following Hariri’s resignation, the Lebanese pound hit a new all-time low exceeding 21,000 per US dollar.
Lira has now lost 90% of its value, evaporating the savings of hundreds of thousands of families. At least half of the population has fallen into poverty, while food inflation exceeds 400%.
The political impasse has persisted since Hariri’s reappointment last October, despite diplomatic pressure from France, Saudi Arabia and the United States. The European Union has threatened to implement sanctions against Lebanese officials preventing a new government from taking power.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the resignation was a “disappointing development” for the Lebanese people.
“The Lebanese political class has squandered the past nine months,” Blinken said in a statement. “The Lebanese economy is in free fall and the current government is not providing basic services reliably. The leadership of Beirut urgently needs to put aside partisan differences and form a government in the service of the Lebanese people. This is what the Lebanese people desperately need.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was also scathing.
“Lebanon is witnessing its self-destruction and the political class is to blame,” he said. “Lebanese leaders seem unable to find a solution to the crisis they have created. “
“Blame each other”
Jamil Mouawad, senior researcher at the Arab Reform Initiative, said Hariri’s resignation is a prime example of the sectarian politics at play in Lebanon.
“It has been like this for years, except that state institutions no longer have cosmetic cover-up like they did before the economic crisis,” Mouawad told Al Jazeera, adding that sectarian tensions are likely to erupt. now. “In this next phase, they will start to blame themselves for hindering the formation of the government. “
Hariri on Wednesday proposed a government of 24 ministers, which local media said gave Aoun eight ministers, including the defense and foreign ministries.
Hariri disagrees with Aoun on the size and distribution of a new government. Aoun accused Hariri’s proposal of lacking Christian representation and rejecting the country’s sectarian power-sharing system, while Hariri accused Aoun of wanting too much of the government.
After resigning in October 2019 following anti-government protests across the country, Hariri was re-appointed a year later, vowing to put in place a government that would adopt economic reforms.
Since the end of 2019, the Lebanese currency has started to lose value due to a dollar shortage, officially pegged at 1,500 pounds to the US dollar. Banks have imposed withdrawal limits on dollar accounts, to the point of only allowing withdrawals at the slightly inflated rate of 3,900 pounds to the dollar.The international community has urged Lebanese officials to settle political differences and form a government that adopts economic reforms to unlock billions of dollars in aid and make the economy viable again.
Lebanon is governed by a sect-based power-sharing system for its religious communities. The main political and security offices are assigned to different sects. The President is a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim and the Speaker of the Parliament a Shia Muslim.