Saad Hariri, who resigned as the prime minister of Lebanon after mass protests, has once again emerged as the most likely contender for the post. This follows the withdrawal of businessman Samir Khatib from the race. Hariri, who resigned on October 29, is currently serving as the caretaker prime minister.
Khatib had emerged as the top contender last week and was expected to be named prime minister on December 9. Reports had emerged that he was acceptable even to members of Hariri’s own party, the al-Mustaqbal Movement. However, he reportedly withdrew his candidature after meeting grand mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian, a senior Sunni cleric, on December 8. According to reports, the grand mufti told Khatib that he supported Hariri for the post of prime minister.
The latest developments may bring more protesters to the streets as the resignation of Hariri was one of the key demands of the uprising in October. Sensing this possibility, president Michel Aoun announced the postponement of the consultations over the leadership till December 16.
According to the existing political arrangement under the Lebanese constitution that was arrived at after the 1989 Taif Accords, the prime minister in Lebanon can only be from the Sunni community. Protesters have been demanding the removal of the sectarian quota system in the government. However, there is no consensus on these issues among the political parties in Lebanon.
Popular protests in Lebanon began on October 17. The protesters were initially opposing the government’s announcement of new taxes on VOIP calls via social media apps. Soon, the protests evolved into a mass uprising against the existing system and the political elite in the country. Protesters blamed the entire ruling class for the widespread corruption. Lebanon has seen increasing poverty rates, unemployment and massive public debt.
Earlier Saad Hariri had ruled out his return as prime minister except as head of a technocratic government. However, the idea of a technocratic government, one of the major demands of the protesters, is resisted by other parties in Lebanon, including Hezbollah and president Michael Aoun.