No consensus yet in Lebanon on government formation, says Jumblatt

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A prominent Lebanese politician said on Thursday it seemed there would be no “white smoke” soon to signal the formation of a new government, indicating more deadlock after the prime minister-designate presented a draft cabinet line-up.

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Four months since Lebanon’s last government quit in the wake of the August 4 Beirut port explosion, main parties have been unable to agree on a cabinet even as the country sinks deeper into a crippling financial crisis.

Michel Aoun and Saad al-Hariri meeting on November 7, 2019. (Twitter)
Michel Aoun and Saad al-Hariri meeting on November 7, 2019. (Twitter)

Saad al-Hariri, who was named in October to form the new government, gave President Michel Aoun his cabinet line-up on Wednesday, saying the atmosphere was positive.

Aoun’s office said the two had agreed to try to bridge the gap between their proposals.

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“It appears the white smoke over the government will not be released soon as a result of further testing to adopt the best vaccine to deal with the crisis,” Walid Jumblatt, Lebanon’s dominant Druze politician, wrote on Twitter, referring to the traditional signal that a new pope has been chosen.

The financial crisis came to a head last year as the result of decades of corruption and bad governance. Poverty will engulf more than half the population by 2021, the World Bank has warned.

Major decisions have been set to one side amid the political paralysis, notably what to do about subsidies on basic goods including fuel, which are being imported using the central bank’s dwindling foreign currency reserves.

The deadlock has also obstructed a French initiative aimed at addressing the crisis. President Emmanuel Macron is due to visit Lebanon later this month, his third trip since the blast.

A senior political source said most parties were not really satisfied with the line-up presented by Hariri, though their complaints were “limited to a certain portfolio or name”.

“This is not something that could not be overcome.”

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