Lebanon′s al-Khatib ends PM candidacy | News | DW | 09.12.2019
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Lebanon's al-Khatib ends PM candidacy

The top candidate to replace former premier Saad Hariri withdrew from consideration, after failing to secure the support of Lebanon's most senior Sunni cleric. The development could signal the return of Hariri to power.

Lebanon's search for a new prime minister was postponed, after businessman Samir al-Khatib withdrawn his candidacy on Sunday. 

Khatib was a contender to succeed Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who resigned from his post on October 29 amid weeks of massive anti-government demonstrations.

Protesters have accused the political elite of corruption and mismanagement, just as the country faces a deepening economic crisis, shortage of liquidity and hard currency.

In Lebanon's complex political system, created to maintain a fragile balance between religious communities, the prime minister must come from the Sunni Muslim community, the president is chosen from the Maronite Christian community, while the parliament head is reserved for Shiite Muslims.

Read more: Opinion: Is the Middle East seeing a new Arab Spring?

Following the prime minister's resignation, a consensus appeared to have formed around Khatib's candidacy, which Hariri himself supported.

But on Sunday, after a visit to Lebanon's most senior Sunni cleric, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian, Khatib said he did not count on his support. Instead, the Grand Mufti expressed his support for Hariri.

"I learned ... that as a result of meetings and consultations and contacts with the sons of the (Sunni) Islamic sect, agreement was reached on nominating Saad al-Hariri to form the coming government," Khatib said.

"I offer my apologies for not completing the mission I was nominated for," the 72-year-old businessman said in a statement.

Khatib also indicated that he had been "subjected to an unfair campaign by some biased people'' that hurt his chances.

Read more: 'People in Lebanon want to live in dignity'

As a result, President Michel Aoun said in a statement that "in light of the new developments" and "at the request of most of the major parliamentary blocs and to make room for further consultations" the consultations to name a prime minister would be postponed to December 16.

Such new developments could signal the return of Hariri to power. But the caretaker prime minister has said he would return to the post only if he is able to lead a government of specialist ministers, something he believes would satisfy protesters and help him tackle the economic crisis and attract foreign aid.

This demand, however, has been rejected by groups including Hezbollah and its ally President Aoun, who insist the government must include politicians.

Lebanon's current political and economic crisis is seen as the worst the country has faced since the 1975-1990 civil war.

jcg/bw (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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