New PM-designate Najib Mikati meets with top political parties, including Hezbollah movement and Free Patriotic Movement founded by President Michel Aoun, in attempt to form a government.

Designation of 65-year-old Najib Mikati, Lebanon's richest man and to many a symbol of its corrupt oligarchy, has met with general scepticism.
Designation of 65-year-old Najib Mikati, Lebanon's richest man and to many a symbol of its corrupt oligarchy, has met with general scepticism. (AP)

Lebanon's new PM-designate Najib Mikati has held consultations with political parties that he said "unanimously" agreed on the need to put together a government quickly to rescue the crisis-hit country.

But he faces an uphill battle after nearly a year of extreme drift, an economic crisis described by the World Bank as one of the world's worst since the 1850s and continued squabbling among political players.

The United States issued a call on Tuesday for Mikati "to quickly form a government that's empowered and a government that's also committed to implementing critical reforms".

Mikati, a billionaire who has already twice served as prime minister, took on the task on Monday, days after fellow veteran politician Saad Hariri threw in the towel.

The last government resigned amid public outrage over a deadly explosion of hundreds of tonnes of poorly stored fertiliser at Beirut port last August.

READ MORE: Lebanon picks billionaire Najib Mikati as PM-designate

Political vacuum

The institutional vacuum is holding up a potential financial rescue plan for the country, which defaulted on its debt last year.

On Tuesday, Mikati met with top political parties, including the powerful Hezbollah movement and the Free Patriotic Movement founded by President Michel Aoun.

"There was unanimous agreement from all blocs and lawmakers on the need to speed up the process of cabinet formation," Mikati said after consultations ended.

The meetings are the customary official step that follows a new prime minister's designation, but the high-stakes horse-trading has yet to even begin.

READ MORE: Now that Hariri has resigned, what’s next for Lebanon?

Hezbollah says to 'cooperate seriously'

Following a meeting with Mikati, Hezbollah lawmaker Mohammad Raad said his party was ready to "cooperate seriously" with the new PM-designate.

FPM chief Gebran Bassil, accused by critics of repeatedly obstructing previous efforts to form a new government, said his party would stand aside this time.

We will "not to participate in the next cabinet, which means we will not get involved in the formation process".

In an interview with the An-Nahar newspaper, Mikati vowed his line-up would be "purely technical" and tasked with bridging the gap to elections due next year.

Several lawmakers, including deputy speaker Elie Ferzli, backed this push on Tuesday.

"The government will consist of specialists," Ferzli said. 

"As for the nominating process, it will rest on Mikati and his agreements with the president."


The designation of 65-year-old Mikati, Lebanon's richest man and to many a symbol of its corrupt oligarchy, was met with general scepticism.

A native of Tripoli, Lebanon's second city and one of its poorest, he was accused by a state prosecutor in 2019 of illicit enrichment, a charge he denies.

"How can I trust a thief who stole from me and my children and their future?" asked 57-year-old Beirut resident Mohammed Deeb, after Mikati's designation.

"As long as this (political) class is still in power, nothing will change."

On Sunday evening, dozens of protesters gathered outside Mikati's Beirut home, accusing him of corruption and cronyism.

READ MORE: Lebanon’s crisis could end up empowering Hezbollah

Most aid blocked

Lebanon's former colonial ruler France and other Western governments stopped short of welcoming Mikati's designation and simply urged him to swiftly deliver a competent line-up.

But Lebanon's bickering politicians view Mikati as a consensus candidate, who may be capable of easing the near-year-long political deadlock.

Mikati, the third politician in a year to attempt the job, promised his government would work on implementing a French roadmap conditioning a huge aid package on reform and transparency.

In some of his first comments after his designation, Mikati said he would prioritise what little international aid is currently available towards addressing severe power blackouts, according to the Al-Akhbar newspaper.

Lebanon can no longer provide mains electricity to its citizens for more than a handful of hours each day, nor can it afford to buy the fuel needed to power generators.

Almost none of the international community's demands for a broad programme of reforms have so far been met.

Further stalling the bankrupt state's recapitalisation has been the government's failure to engage the International Monetary Fund and discuss a fully-fledged rescue plan.

Until then, the monetary institution is due to send around $900 million, but experts warn it will not be enough and risks being misused.

READ MORE: Protests erupt in Lebanon as France announces aid conference

Source: AFP