In Lebanon, Hariri fades for billionaire Safadi

Hezbollah and its Christian ally refused a 100% independent government, as demanded by the protesters.

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Lebanese police disperse a water cannon demonstration near the presidential palace on November 15, 2019 in Beirut. Bilal Hussein / AP

Lebanon's resigning prime minister, Saad Hariri, is unlikely to succeed himself. On the evening of Thursday 14 to Friday 15 November, the majority bloc in Parliament agreed on the appointment of Mohammad Safadi, a Sunni businessman from Tripoli, as head of the next government. The former finance minister is expected to head a cabinet of both politicians and independents hoping to appease the anti-system protest movement that has been shaking up Cedar Country for the past month.

Hezbollah and the Amal movement, two Shiite formations, as well as the Free Patriotic Movement (CPL), the Christian party of Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, fell back on the name after failing to find common ground with Saad Hariri, their initial option to form the new executive.

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According to his entourage, that The world the outgoing prime minister agreed to Mohammad Safadi's choice. The 75-year-old billionaire, who made his fortune in Saudi Arabia, supported pro-Hariri candidates in Tripoli in the parliamentary elections in the spring of 2018. In the Lebanese confessional system, the leadership of the government belongs to a member of the Sunni community, the head of state to be a Christian and the president of Parliament a Shiite.

"Hariri wanted a government of work"

The compromise, supposed to offer an answer to the complaints of the street, was sealed during a nocturnal meeting in Beit Al-Wasat, the Beirut residence of Mr. Hariri. The agreement, negotiated behind the scenes, should be formalized in the coming days by the president, Michel Aoun, who is responsible, according to the Lebanese Constitution, to appoint the prime minister, after consulting the parliamentary groups.

The negotiations between Saad Hariri, on the one hand, and the Shiite tandem and the CPL, on the other, have stumbled on the nature of the future government. The first, who had resigned on 29 October under pressure from the street, insisted that the new team be composed exclusively of independent personalities, chosen for their technical expertise. The number one slogan of the protesters, "Kellon yaani kellon" ("All, that means all"), calls for a complete renewal of the ruling class, deemed corrupt and unable to get the country out of the economic slump in which it is plunged.

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"Saad Hariri was convinced that if he formed a government in the style of the previous one, it would be a collective suicide, that the demonstrations would redouble vigor", says a member of his entourage. "He wanted a government of work, not a team full of contradictions, where one and the other would put sticks in the wheels permanently", adds another one of his relatives.


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