Beirut (MEE) – Saad al-Hariri has once again ruled himself out as a candidate to be Lebanon’s next prime minister, 50 days after he resigned from the post amid nationwide protests against the country’s widely reviled political elite.
Hariri, Lebanon’s leading Sunni politician, made the statement on the eve of formal consultations to designate a new prime minister, a post reserved for a Sunni in Lebanon’s sectarian system.
“I announce that I will not be a candidate to form the coming government,” Hariri said on Wednesday.
“I am heading tomorrow to take part in the consultations … on this basis, insisting that they not be delayed for any reason,” he said.
Hariri did not say who he might nominate for the post in the consultations, which President Michel Aoun is due to host on Thursday.
Parliamentary consultations have been repeatedly postponed.
Aoun, a Maronite Christian, is required to designate the candidate with the most support among Lebanon’s 128 members of parliament.
With the support of Lebanon’s Sunni religious establishment behind him, Hariri had appeared to be the only candidate for the job earlier this week, despite political tensions with adversaries, including Aoun.
The crisis escalated when the Christian Lebanese Forces said it would not name Hariri nor anyone else in the consultations, meaning that his candidacy would not enjoy the support of either of Lebanon’s two main Christian parties.
Mass protests have been raging across the country for several weeks in response to planned tax hikes that would have hit people’s pocketbooks hard.
Since then, daily protests across the country have called for the complete removal of the political class and an end to the corruption that is so rife in Lebanese politics.
The country is currently mired in its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war, with big government spending resulting in one of the highest debt-to-GDP ratios in the world.
The country is also facing a dollar liquidity crisis, with banks limiting the withdrawal and transfers of the greenback, which has been selling for more than 2,000 Lebanese pounds on the parallel market for the first time since it was officially pegged at 1,507 in 1997.
This post was originally written for and published by Middle East Eye and appears here with permission.