Mohammad Safadi weighed down by history in premiership bid to quell protests

Lebanon’s parliament begins formal consideration for a candidate to fill the country’s vacant premiership today. Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned

hariri

Photo: REUTERS/Cynthia Karam

Lebanon’s parliament begins formal consideration for a candidate to fill the country’s vacant premiership today.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned last month after protests over Lebanon’s struggling economy saw over 100,000 people take to the streets. Mohammad Safadi, a former finance minister, withdrew his candidacy on Sunday, citing difficulties in forming a “harmonious” government.

Attention has returned to Hariri, who is supported by Iranian-backed Hezbollah and the Lebanese Amal Movement. However, a rift between Hariri and his supporters may jeopardise this alliance. The Shia groups have demanded the inclusion of both technocrats and politicians in the cabinet, while Hariri has insisted on a cabinet entirely composed of technocrats.

While this dispute alone is not likely to preclude the possibility of a future Hariri government, one side will need to back down on their cabinet composition demands. If Hariri gives in, this will further incense protesters—establishment politicians are a major target of their ire.

Moreover, if Hariri is elected premier once more, protests—currently showing no sign of abatement—may intensify. Hariri will likely only be able to restore order if he swiftly unveils major economic reforms. Indeed, pressure to address high taxes, while also implementing sweeping structural reforms to salvage the macro-economy, are reaching a fever pitch.