Lebanon President Michel Aoun has designated Saad Al-Hariri as PM: Presidency Office

President Michel Aoun on Thursday designated Saad Al-Hariri to be Lebanon's next prime minister. (Dalati Nohra/Lebanese Government via AP)
Updated 24 May 2018
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Lebanon President Michel Aoun has designated Saad Al-Hariri as PM: Presidency Office

BEIRUT: Lebanese lawmakers designated Prime Minister Saad Hariri for a third term in office Thursday, less than three weeks after elections that saw his movement lose ground in parliament.
"The head of state summoned prime minister Saad Hariri and tasked him with forming a government," said a statement posted on social media by the office of President Michel Aoun.
The presidency made the announcement after Hariri, 48, was endorsed by a vast majority of members of parliament after only a few hours of consultations.
Hariri said in a statement that he would seek to form a new government as quickly as possible in order to implement some of the reforms pledged earlier this year to secure key foreign aid.
"I thank all my fellow deputies who entrusted me with forming a new government, hoping we will do so as soon as possible for the benefit of Lebanon and the Lebanese," he said.
Speaking to reporters before leaving the presidential palace, he reaffirmed his policy of "disassociation", a term used to describe efforts to keep Lebanon out of the region's conflicts.
"The new government will need to consolidate its policy of disassociation and continue efforts to face the refugee crisis," he said.
The small Middle eastern country has seen its population increase by a third with the influx of refugees pouring in from neighbouring Syria, which has been torn by war for seven years.
A conference dubbed CEDRE and held in Paris in April raised $11 billion in low-interest loans and aid for Lebanon, whose public debt stands at 150 percent of gross domestic product, the world's third highest rate behind Japan and Greece.
Hariri's Future movement lost a third of its seats on May 6, when Lebanon held its first legislative election in nine years and voters reinforced the weight of the Shiite group Hezbollah and its allies.
The Iran-backed party, the only group to have kept its weapons after Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, and its allies control more than half of parliament's 128 seats.
That is expected to protect the US terror-listed organisation from attempts to push for its disarmament, a cause long championed by Hariri and his Sunni-dominated bloc.
While Hezbollah had been content in recent years exercising its influence on the government via second-tier portfolios and its political allies, observers predict it will this time ask for bigger ministries.
The movement's leader Hassan Nasrallah is scheduled to give a televised speech on Friday.
Lebanon's unique sectarian power-sharing arrangements provide for parliament to be split equally between Christians and Muslims and stipulate that the president be Maronite, the premier Sunni and the speaker Shiite.
Speaker Nabih Berri, who has held the position since 1992, was given a new term on Wednesday.
Hariri has been prime minister since December 2016 and served his first term from 2009 to 2011. His father, who was assassinated in 2005, also served two terms between 1992 and 2004.


UK govt insists suspension of Parliament was not illegal

Updated 3 min 54 sec ago

UK govt insists suspension of Parliament was not illegal

  • Government says a lower court was right to rule that Johnson’s suspension of Parliament was a matter of “high policy” and politics, not law
  • Opponents argue that Johnson illegally shut down Parliament

LONDON: The British government was back at the country’s Supreme Court on Wednesday, arguing that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament just weeks before the country is set to leave the European Union was neither improper nor illegal.
It’s the second day of a historic three-day hearing that pits the powers of Britain’s legislature against those of its executive as the country’s scheduled Brexit date of Oct. 31 looms over its political landscape and its economy.
Government lawyer James Eadie argued that a lower court was right to rule that Johnson’s suspension of Parliament was a matter of “high policy” and politics, not law. Eadie called the decision to shut down Parliament “inherently and fundamentally political in nature.”
He said if the court intervened it would violate the “fundamental constitutional principle” of the separation of powers between courts and the government.
“This is, we submit, the territory of political judgment, not legal standards,” Eadie said.
The government’s opponents argue that Johnson illegally shut down Parliament just weeks before the country is due to leave the 28-nation bloc for the “improper purpose” of dodging lawmakers’ scrutiny of his Brexit plans. They also accuse Johnson of misleading Queen Elizabeth II, whose formal approval was needed to suspend the legislature.
Johnson sent lawmakers home on Sept. 9 until Oct. 14, which is barely two weeks before Britain’s Oct. 31 departure from the EU. He claims the shutdown was a routine measure to enable his Conservative government to launch a fresh legislative agenda and was not related to Brexit.
Eadie rejected claims that the prime minister was trying to prevent lawmakers from blocking his Brexit plans.
He said “Parliament has had, and has taken, the opportunity to legislate” against the government, and would have more time between Oct. 14 and Brexit day. He said even if Parliament didn’t come back until Oct. 31, “there is time” for it to act on Brexit.
The prime minister says Britain must leave the EU on Oct. 31 with or without a divorce deal. But many economists and UK lawmakers believe a no-deal Brexit would be economically devastating and socially destabilizing. Members of Parliament have put obstacles in Johnson’s way, including a law compelling the government to seek a delay to Brexit if it can’t get a divorce deal with the EU.
Parliament’s suspension spared Johnson further meddling by the House of Commons but sparked legal challenges, to which lower courts gave contradictory rulings. England’s High Court said the move was a political rather than legal matter but Scottish court judges ruled Johnson acted illegally “to avoid democratic scrutiny.”
The Supreme Court is being asked to decide who was right. The justices will give their judgment sometime after the hearing ends on Thursday.
A ruling against the government by the 11 Supreme Court judges could force Johnson to recall Parliament.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, meanwhile, said Wednesday that the risk of Britain leaving the EU without a divorce deal remained “very real” because Britain had not produced workable alternatives to the deal agreed upon with the EU by ex-British Prime Minister Theresa May. That deal was repeatedly rejected by Britain’s Parliament, prompting May to resign and bringing Johnson to power in July.
“I asked the British prime minister to specify the alternative arrangements that he could envisage,” Juncker told the European Parliament. “As long as such proposals are not made, I cannot tell you — while looking you straight in the eye — that progress is being made.”
Juncker, who met with Johnson on Monday, told members of the EU legislature in Strasbourg, France, that a no-deal Brexit “might be the choice of the UK, but it will never be ours.”
The EU parliament on Wednesday adopted a non-binding resolution supporting another extension to the Brexit deadline if Britain requests it.
Any further delay to Britain’s exit — which has already been postponed twice — needs the approval of the 27 other EU nations.
Johnson has said he won’t delay Brexit under any circumstances — but also says he will respect the law, which orders the government to seek an extension if there is no deal by Oct. 19. He has not explained how that would be done.