After port blast, rudderless Lebanon drifts towards the rocks

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The prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim in Lebanon’s sectarian power-sharing system.

Hezbollah and its Shi’ite ally Amal are pressing for the return of Saad al-Hariri, seeing him as well placed to galvanize foreign support.

But this has hit resistance from several parties, each for their own reasons.

The opponents include Hezbollah’s ally the Maronite Christian President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law, Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil, who have been at loggerheads with Hariri since last year.

At the other end of the spectrum, neither the Christian Lebanese Forces Party, seen as close to Saudi Arabia, nor Druze leader Walid Jumblatt want him back in the job for now.

“If it isn’t Saad al-Hariri, we will remain with a caretaker government” until the end of Aoun’s term in 2022, said a senior politician familiar with the thinking of Hezbollah and Amal.

“We are currently in a state of chaos,” the politician said. Without a deal on a new government, “we will go to even more chaos in the street.”

Hariri announced on Tuesday he was not a candidate for the job. He has insisted he will only become prime minister of a cabinet of non-aligned experts with public sector experience able to drive through reform.

The Saudi ambassador to Lebanon, Waleed Bukhari, told Reuters reforming Lebanon was more important than the identity of the next prime minister.

“What matters to the international community is the next government’s program and its … policies to meet the expectations of the Lebanese people and restore trust,” he said.

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