Mustapha Adib was named by four former prime ministers on the eve of binding consultations between the president and parliamentary blocs on their choice for the post.
Lebanon's ambassador to Germany Mustapha Adib is poised to be designated prime minister on Monday after winning the support of major parties to form a new government facing a crippling financial crisis and the aftermath of the Beirut port explosion.
Adib is set to be designated just ahead of a two day-visit by French President Emmanuel Macron, who is centre stage in international efforts to press Lebanese politicians to address a crisis seen as the worst since the 1975-90 civil war. It’s Macron’s second visit to the former French protectorate in less than a month.
The previous government led by Hassan Diab quit on August 10 over the port blast in which a massive amount of unsafely stored chemicals detonated.
The post of prime minister must go to a Sunni Muslim according to Lebanon's sectarian system. Adib's candidacy won vital political backing on Sunday from former prime ministers including Saad al Hariri, who heads the biggest Sunni party, the Future Movement.
“The target of political and national action at this stage must be to save Lebanon from what is suffering from,” said Fouad Siniora, a former prime minister, reading a joint statement.
President Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian, is due to meet parliamentary blocs on Monday in the official consultations to designate the new premier. He is required to nominate the candidate with the biggest level of support among MPs.
Lebanon's dominant Shia parties, the Iran-backed Hezbollah and the Amal Movement led by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, will both name Adib at the consultations, a senior Shia source said.
The Christian Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), a political ally of Hezbollah, which was founded by Aoun and is led today by his son-in-law Gebran Bassil, will do the same, Bassil told Reuters.
Once designated, the process of forming a new government will get underway. Until a new administration is agreed, the Diab government continues in a caretaker capacity.
“Whether in naming a prime minister or forming a government, we will be cooperative and facilitate getting the country out of a vacuum,” Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech on Sunday. Nasrallah said his group is also open to calls from France for a new political contract in Lebanon, on condition that all Lebanese factions are on board.
Adib previously served as an adviser to Najib Mikati, a former prime minister. He has served as ambassador to Germany since 2013.
Adib, 48 and a native of the northern city of Tripoli, holds a PhD in law and political sciences and had taught in universities in Lebanon and France.
Call for a 'secular state'
President Michel Aoun has also called for the proclamation of a "secular state" during a televised address to mark the upcoming centenary of the Lebanese state.
"I call for the proclamation of Lebanon as a secular state," Aoun said during a speech on Sunday in which he acknowledged the need "to change the system," after an enormous explosion at Beirut's port in early August and months of deepening economic crisis.
Lebanon's financial crisis is seen as the biggest threat to its stability since the civil war. The currency has lost as much as 80 percent of its value since October and savers have been locked out of their deposits in a paralysed banking system. Poverty and unemployment have soared.
Coronavirus infections and deaths have also spiked, causing concerns and pushing authorities to reintroduce some restrictions on economic and social activities that have largely been ignored amid the slump.
And the recent explosion badly damaged the port of Beirut, a main trade channel for the small country dependent on imports.
On Sunday, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia said more than half of Lebanon’s population is at risk of failing to access basic food needs by the end of 2020, amid an average annual inflation rate expected to reach 50 percent compared to 2.9 percent in 2019.
ESCWA said the average price of food products has increased by 141 percent between July 2019 and 2020, and that it expects the Beirut explosion to further drive up basic food prices.
Lebanon launched talks with the International Monetary Fund in May, after defaulting on its huge debt, aiming to secure financial support but these have stalled amid divisions on the Lebanese side over the scale of losses in the financial system.