Lebanon’s parliamentary blocs to help Hariri form new government

Saad Hariri (C) arrives for a meeting with President Aoun, after the latter named him to form a new cabinet, at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of the capital Beirut, on October 22, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 23 October 2020

Lebanon’s parliamentary blocs to help Hariri form new government

  • Lawmakers emphasize need to expedite reform process
  • Parliamentary blocs that met Hariri expressed a sense of optimism and cooperation

BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri on Friday held consultations with lawmakers about the new government he will form.
He held the non-binding meetings at the parliament’s headquarters despite the damage it suffered after the Beirut Port explosion on Aug. 4.
There were tough security measures at entrances leading to parliament and there were no protests nearby, despite activists’ anger about Hariri’s nomination to lead the country. He resigned a year ago as prime minister following massive demonstrations against Lebanon’s political elite. 
“Hariri is sticking to forming a government of non-party member specialists whose mission is to implement economic, financial, and administrative reforms as cited by the French initiative, which the parliamentary blocs vowed to support,” sources close to Hariri told Arab News. “Hariri listened to the points of view of the lawmakers, noting that since his nomination he has not talked to anyone about details related to the government which he intends to form.”
Parliamentary blocs that met Hariri expressed a sense of optimism and cooperation, especially those that did not nominate him on Thursday to form the government. Representatives of these blocs were unanimous in emphasizing the importance of speeding up the reform process to save the country from its economic crisis.
“Talks were straightforward and open,” lawmaker Gebran Bassil said after his meeting. “There is no personal problem with Hariri and we are extremely positive, and we are concerned in implementing the reforms cited by the French proposal.”
He asked that reforms start with a forensic investigation and the imposition of capital control, and to agree on a joint program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“The priority is for qualified people and we wait for what President Michel Aoun and Hariri will agree on, so that we determine our stance toward forming the government, noting that we are ready to facilitate the process.”
Lawmaker Mohammed Raad, head of Hezbollah parliamentary bloc, said after his Hariri meeting: “We tendered our point of view regarding the role of the government, and this is something that we consented on to a large extent. We discussed reform issues related to administration, the judiciary, and control agencies, calling for rectifying the financial and banking situation, in addition to other issues cited in the French initiative which we vowed to support 90 percent of them. We advised to adopt a method whereas each minister would hold one portfolio so that he would be capable of sorting out its problems. We advised not to have a small government, and to have between 22 and 24 ministers, and expressed our readiness to cooperate.”
Former Prime Minister Tammam Salam said he hoped that the government would be formed by a harmonious team to implement the required reforms during a three to six month period. “Parliament is there to question and hold accountability, in addition to follow up all government actions, and this cannot be achieved during this period in a traditional way as if things are all fine in the country.”
Dr. Nasser Yassin said that the spirit of openness and cooperation after a period of acrimony and accusation was about maintaining a minimum level of stability in Lebanon within the framework of the French initiative.
“The collapse of Lebanon affects neighboring countries, and we have already seen refugee boats sailing in the direction of Cyprus,” he told Arab News. “Nobody wants to increase the crises of the region, the crises of Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya are enough, and what is needed is to maintain a minimum stability in Lebanon. I do not see new equations.”
He added that what was happening in Lebanon was the failure of some in leading the country, the attempts of some parties to undermine the role of other parties, and the game to save the political order while maintaining the same political behavior. 


Lebanon to ease virus curbs from Monday

Updated 29 November 2020

Lebanon to ease virus curbs from Monday

  • Schools would also reopen but with some classes still held online
  • Restaurants will reopen at 50% capacity, but bars and nightclubs will remain closed and weddings prohibited

BEIRUT: Lebanon is from Monday to gradually ease restrictions imposed two weeks ago after a surge in coronavirus infections, in a bid to relieve its struggling economy in time for the festive season, officials said.
Acting health minister Hamad Hassan told reporters the country “will gradually reopen from Monday” to give citizens and businesses a respite ahead of Christmas and end of year holidays.
He said restaurants will reopen at 50 percent capacity, but bars and nightclubs will remain closed and weddings prohibited, while an overnight curfew will start from 11 p.m. instead of 5pm.
Schools would also reopen but with some classes still held online, Hassan said after a meeting of Lebanon’s coronavirus task force.
He warned that the “danger” of a rise in infections still exists and that the hoped-for results to stem the virus thanks to the curbs would not be known for several days.
Before the two-week restrictions went into force in mid-November, bed occupancy in hospital intensive care units was between 80 and 90 percent while “now it stands at 65-70 percent,” Hassan said.
Since February, the country has recorded more than 125,000 Covid-19 cases, including around 1,000 deaths.
Lebanon, with a population of around six million, had been recording some 11,000 coronavirus infections on average each week before mid-November, according to the health ministry.
A first country-wide lockdown imposed in March was effective in stemming the spread of the virus, before restrictions were gradually lifted as summer beckoned people outdoors.
But the number of cases surged following a monstrous blast at Beirut’s port on August 4 that killed more than 200 people, wounded at least 6,500 and overwhelmed hospitals.
The blast and the pandemic have exacerbated tensions in the Mediterranean country which has been grappling with its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.