Lebanese President Michel Aoun yesterday designated the former education minister Hassan Diab as the country’s new prime minister following a majority confidence vote of 69 out of 128 members of parliament.
According to Lebanon’s confessional system the post of prime minister must be filled by a Sunni Muslim.
Diab has the support of Hezbollah’s Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc, the Free Patriotic Movement party, the Amal movement, the Social Nationalist Party in Lebanon and Marada Movement. He was an assistant professor at the American University of Beirut before rising to the position of vice president and professor of computer engineering. The academic partially meets the preference of US and its supporters inside the country which have called for a “technocratic” government.
It’s a shame to see some Lebanese media trying to fire up readers with their headlines describing Hassan Diab as ‘Hezbollah backed’. He’s also FPM and Amal backed. Any potential PM HAS to have the backing of Hezbollah anyway. Lebanon needs unity and sober reporting right now
— Hesham Shawish | هشام شاويش (@HeshamSBBC) December 20, 2019
PressTV reported that Elie Ferzli, the deputy parliament speaker and a political ally of Hezbollah, was the first lawmaker to declare support for Diab. Ferzli said Diab’s nomination took “into account some of the basic prerequisites wanted by the people”, calling him an “academic and person of integrity”.
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Sunni-aligned Future Movement will not be participating in the new government and only a handful of Sunni MPs gave their backing to Diab. Hariri resigned amid the country’s worsening economic crisis and mounting unrest from protestors leaving the country in political uncertainty. It will also see a reduction in Saudi and Western influence in the country, with relations potentially strengthened with Russia and China.
This could also mean that Lebanon can finally build economic bridges with countries like China if the new PM is keen for international collaboration and not another US puppet like Hariri.
Although this can be hindered by Hezbollah allies heading the parliament and the presidency. https://t.co/DtttHtAVPr
— Hadi Nasrallah (@HadiNasrallah) December 19, 2019
However, hundreds of mostly Sunni protestors took to the streets in Tripoli and Beirut denouncing Diab’s designation with some setting up roadblocks. Some Hariri-loyalists voiced their support for the former prime minister despite himself withdrawing from the leadership race, whilst others perceive Diab as representing the political elites.
— nbnlebanon (@nbntweets) December 19, 2019
The narratives – as expected – are different.
Protestors say Hassan Diab reps establishment, does not meet demands of an independent Cabinet.
Future Movement supporters say Diab doesn't rep the Sunni street – only 6 Sunni MPs, none from major parties endorsed him#Lebanon
— Kareem Chehayeb | كريم شهيب (@chehayebk) December 19, 2019
Speaking from the presidential palace in Baabda outside Beirut, Diab confirmed that consultations with parties would begin tomorrow to start forming a government, the state-run National News Agency reported.