Hassan Diab set to be next Lebanon PM

Hassan Diab arrives to talk to the media after being named Lebanon's new prime minister, at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon, on Dec. 19, 2019. (REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir)
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Updated 20 December 2019

Hassan Diab set to be next Lebanon PM

  • Ex-minister gets Hezbollah backing but fails to win Sunni, Druze vote

BEIRUT: Lebanon has named academic and former education minister Hassan Diab as its next prime minister in a bid to end two months of political stalemate that has gripped the country.

Diab, vice president of the American University of Beirut, was nominated to head the next government by President Michel Aoun’s parliamentary bloc, along with its allies Hezbollah, Amal Movement and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party.

The prime minister designate’s first task will be to build a government capable of tackling Lebanon’s worst economic turmoil for decades, while satisfying demands for change from the largest protest movement in almost two decades.

Diab secured the votes of 69 out of 128 members of Parliament on Thursday after caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri withdrew his candidacy and told Aoun his Future Movement parliamentary bloc would not participate in the next government.

However, the incoming premier failed to win a majority of Sunni, Druze or even Christian votes in the binding parliamentary consultations, raising questions about his ability to establish a stable leadership as the country struggles with rising unemployment and a collapsing economy. 

The significant absence of Sunni and Druze votes also revealed changes in Lebanon’s political alliances amid positioning for power in the future government.

Politicians close to Hezbollah and Amal tried to downplay the significance of the voting “gap” as they sought to head off objections to Diab’s nomination. 

Head of the Tawhid Party, Wiam Wahhab, said: “The Sunni opposition that named Diab won 40 percent of the Sunni votes in the parliamentary elections.”

MP Qassem Hashem said: “The person who wins the majority of votes decides to accept or reject. Anything else is misplaced heresy.”

However, Strong Republic MP Ziad Hawat described the consultations on Thursday as “a badly directed play in which all rules and regulations were violated.”

He added: “This is a standard appointment exposed by the power of arms.”

MP Paula Yacoubian said: “Those who are promoting Diab to head the government are trying to do so by using a minesweeper.”

Diab, 60, was minister of education and higher education in Najib Mikati’s government in 2011. 

He appeared as a leadership candidate late on Wednesday after the Strong Lebanon bloc, Hezbollah and Amal agreed to nominate him following Hariri’s withdrawal.

Hariri’s parliamentary bloc, which includes 18 MPs, did not name anyone to head the government.

The Democratic Gathering bloc, which includes nine MPs representing Druze and Progressive Socialist Party loyalists, named former envoy Judge Nawaf Salam as its candidate, a decision backed by the Kataeb bloc, which includes three MPs.

Sami Gemayel, head of the bloc, said: “People want a neutral government and a prime minister who offers a new beginning.”

Diab, who has a Ph.D. in computer engineering, won the votes of the Strong Lebanon bloc, which includes 19 MPs and is headed by MP Gibran Bassil.

He also won the votes of the Hezbollah bloc (13 MPs) and Amal (17 MPs).




Teen killed in clashes between Palestinian forces, gunmen

Updated 1 min 54 sec ago

Teen killed in clashes between Palestinian forces, gunmen

JERUSALEM: A teenager was shot and killed in overnight clashes between Palestinian forces and local gunmen in the West Bank, local media reported Wednesday.
Salah Zakarna, 17, was shot in the chest and later died when Palestinian security forces clashed with armed residents in the northern West Bank town of Qabatiya, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported. It was unclear who shot him.
Maan said Palestinian forces were trying to prevent residents from firing celebratory gunfire into the air to welcome home a local man who had been released from an Israeli prison. It said several people, including members of the security forces, were wounded.
The Palestinian Authority, which has limited self-rule in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, said it launched an investigation into the teenager’s death and would bring those responsible to justice.
Support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has plummeted in recent years following his failure to bring about an independent state or mend the rift with the Islamic militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Authority has also faced widespread allegations of corruption.
Abbas has continued to maintain security ties with Israel more than a decade after the last high-level peace talks ended. The security coordination is deeply unpopular among Palestinians, many of whom view it as an extension of the occupation.