BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanese President Michel Aoun called on prime minister-designate Saad al-Hariri on Wednesday to form a new cabinet immediately or else make way for someone who can.
Aoun and Hariri have been at loggerheads over government formation for almost five months, leaving the country rudderless as it sinks deeper into financial collapse.
Lebanon is in the throes of a deep economic crisis that is posing the biggest threat to its stability since the 1975-1990 civil war.
“If prime minister-designate Hariri finds himself unable to form a government…, he should make way for those who are,” Aoun said in a televised speech after inviting him to the Baabda palace for immediate talks on the matter.
A new government could implement urgently-needed reforms and unlock international aid.
The government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned on the back of the Aug. 4 Beirut port explosion that destroyed swathes of the capital and left 200 dead.
Diab’s cabinet has stayed on in a caretaker capacity until a successor is formed but fractious politicians have been unable to agree a government since Hariri’s nomination in October.
“My call is determined and truthful to the prime minister-designate to choose immediately one of the two choices, as silence is not an option after today,” Aoun said.
Erupting in 2019, the financial crisis has wiped out jobs, locked people out of their bank deposits, slashed almost 90% of the value of the Lebanese currency and raised the risk of widespread hunger.
The pace of unravelling has escalated in the past two weeks with the Lebanese pound losing a third of its value, shops closing down and protesters blocking roadways.
(Reporting by Samia Nakhoul, Maha El Dahan and Laila Bassam; Editing by Mark Heinrich)