BEIRUT: Lebanese prime minister designate Hassan Diab’s hopes of forming a government were dealt a further blow on Saturday with the withdrawal of a senior candidate in line for the interior ministry portfolio.
Talal Al-Ladki, deputy leader of the National Islamic Gathering, a Sunni bloc loyal to Hezbollah, announced that he was withdrawing his name “once and for all” because of “personal reasons.”
The retired army major-general’s statement flew in the face of claims by Hezbollah and its allies in recent days that obstacles to the formation of a government in the crisis-wracked country are “simple and solvable.”
Al-Ladki’s withdrawal is the latest setback for Diab whose efforts to form a government and end months of political and social upheaval have been hindered by disputes over party quotas and conflicts between parliamentary rivals.
The Future Movement, led by former prime minister Saad Hariri, is boycotting negotiations over the future leadership, while Dar Al-Fatwa, the Sunni authority in Lebanon, has yet to voice support for Diab. Many Sunni politicians have also refused to be part of Diab’s government.
Lebanese Forces spokesman Charles Jabbour told Arab News that the latest setback shows “the political establishment is unable to form a government and will be unable to save Lebanon from a financial crisis unprecedented in its history.”
The same political class had brought Lebanon to a state of bankruptcy, both economically and politically, “but its priorities are now the struggle for influence and quotas, and it cannot save the country,” he said.
With hopes of forming a government in free-fall, the Lebanese dollar again lost value in exchange shops.
The country’s financial situation remains perilous in the absence of a new government and with no prospect of the economic reforms needed to ensure international help.
Street protests also escalated on Saturday with activists taking to the streets and squares surrounding Beirut under the banner “We refuse to pay the price.”
Meanwhile, pharmacy owners in southern areas of the capital staged a sit-in protest to condemn what they described as “systematic and repeated” raids on pharmacies by gunmen.
Local markets are witnessing a price increase on daily food items in light of the high unofficial exchange rate of the dollar to the local currency.
President of the Consumer Protection Association Zuhair Berro said that prices had jumped by up to 40 percent in the past four months.
“The Lebanese minimum wage, which is $450 per month, is now equivalent to $270, meaning that employees are now getting paid about half the minimum wage, while market prices are increasing,” Berro said.