Miqati Named PM-Designate with 72 Votes
Former premier Najib Miqati was on Monday named PM-designate after he garnered 72 votes in the binding parliamentary consultations.
Independent MP Fouad Makhzoumi meanwhile voted for ex-ambassador Nawwaf Salam as 42 MPs abstained from voting for any candidate.
"I want the confidence of the people, not only MPs," Miqati said in a speech after his designation.
"The cooperation of all Lebanese is required in order to stop the inferno," he added.
Noting that he does not have a "magic wand," Miqati stressed that the new government will be formed "according to the French initiative for the interest of Lebanon and its economy."
"If I didn't have specific foreign reassurances, I would not have made my step," he revealed.
Miqati’s designation comes after Saad Hariri earlier this month gave up attempts to form a Cabinet amid deep differences with President Michel Aoun and an unprecedented financial meltdown roiling the country.
One of the richest men in Lebanon, Miqati became a favorite for the post after he was endorsed by most of Lebanon's political parties and also the powerful, Iran-backed Hizbullah. Miqati was also endorsed by former Sunni prime ministers including Hariri.
It is not clear whether Miqati -- widely considered an extension of the political class that brought the country to bankruptcy -- would be able to break the year-long impasse over the formation of a new government. He faces Christian opposition from the Lebanese Forces and Aoun's own political party, now led by his son-in-law Jebran Bassil.
Lebanon's economic and financial crisis began in late 2019 and has steadily worsened since then. Poverty has soared in the past several months as the situation spirals out of control, with dire shortages of medicines, fuel and electricity. The currency has lost around 90% of its value to the dollar, driving hyperinflation.
Miqati's designation would be the third so far since the current caretaker government headed by Hassan Diab resigned in the wake of the massive explosion at Beirut's port last August. Since then, Diab's Cabinet has acted only in a caretaker capacity, compounding Lebanon's paralysis further.
The first to try to form a government was Lebanon's former ambassador to Germany, Mustafa Adib, who resigned last September, nearly a month after being designated prime minister. Hariri was appointed next and stepped down after 10 months.
Any new government faces the monumental task of undertaking desperately needed reforms as well as resuming talks with the International Monetary Fund for a rescue package. The international community has refused to help Lebanon financially before wide reforms are implemented to fight widespread corruption and mismanagement.
Miqati, a Sunni billionaire from the northern city of Tripoli, served as prime minister in 2005 and from 2011 to 2013, when he resigned at the height of the Syrian war after a two-year stint in a government dominated by Hizbullah and its allies.
He founded the telecommunications company Investcom with his brother Taha in the 1980s and sold it in 2006 to South Africa's MTN Group for $5.5 billion.
Miqati was accused by a state prosecutor in 2019 of illicit enrichment, a charge he denies.
The billionaire PM-designate is believed to be supported by the United States and France.