Lebanon forms new government after 13 months of crisis

Lebanon announced a new government after 13 months of political crisis, unleashed after the explosion in the port of Beirut. President Michel Aoun announced Najib Mikati as prime minister, the third to take office since 2020.

President Michel Aoun is a Maronite Christian, while Najib Mikati is a Sunni Muslim, a reflection of the post-Civil War political agreement that forces the distribution of top positions along ethnic lines. With the new cabinet, composed of 24 ministers, the Lebanese prime minister reiterated that he intends to cooperate “with anyone, except Israel”.

Mikati, who had been Lebanese prime minister in 2005 and 2011, is considered the “richest man in the country”, and now promises to have an emergency plan to reverse what he called the “collapse of the nation” and restore prosperity to the Lebanese. One of the measures to get out of the economic crisis may be the resumption of negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), interrupted by the lack of an agreement in July of last year.

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The new prime minister reiterated that parliamentary elections, scheduled for May 2022, are held. Next Monday (13), the new cabinet should receive a vote of confidence from the Lebanese parliament.

Other positions already confirmed are that of Foreign Minister, with Abdullah Abu Habib, the Finance portfolio will be headed by Youssef Khalil, a former Central Bank official, and the Interior Ministry by Bassam Mawlawi. The only woman in the cabinet will be Najla Riachi, a former UN ambassador and new minister of Administrative Reform.

Since the explosion in the port of Beirut in August 2020, which ended with 221 deaths and nearly US$5 million in damages, Lebanon has been experiencing one of the biggest political and economic crises in its history. With a 20.3% retraction of GDP in 2020, inflation reached 200%, and the Lebanese pound devalued around 90% in the last year. According to the United Nations, around 78% of the Lebanese population lives in poverty.

Edition: Arturo Hartmann

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