Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Saad Hariri is reportedly ready to return as the head of a new government on certain conditions, according to a senior official “familiar with Hariri’s thinking,” who spoke on Wednesday with the Reuters news agency.
The official, who requested anonymity, said that Hariri set the following conditions for his return:
• The new government must include technocrats
• It must be capable of quickly implementing the reforms needed to head off an economic collapse
• The new cabinet cannot include the group of top-tier politicians who were in the outgoing coalition government – whom the official did not name.
A cabinet with technocratic lawmakers has been a main demand by protesters who have sought independent experts to guide the country through an escalating economic and financial crisis, while securing basic infrastructure such as services to the public that include electricity and water.
The problem, however, is that it takes months in Lebanon to form a coalition government — the last time, it took Hariri nine months to complete the process – and Lebanese law requires the prime minister to be a Sunni Muslim. The president must be a Christian and the speaker of the parliament must be a Shiite Muslim.
Banks in Lebanon on Wednesday remained closed for an 11th business day but were said to be ready to open for normal operations and receive customers for Friday. The national banking association told Reuters in a statement, “Thursday will be dedicated to internal work to complete [a backlog] of operations and to prepare to receive customers starting Friday morning.”
Bankers and analysts cited concerns that savers will rush to withdraw their savings, or transfer them abroad as soon as the banks open.
If Hariri does return and attempt to form a new Lebanese cabinet, this would be his fourth time leading the country through the complex negotiations involved in putting together a new government to lead the nation while trying to wrestle with the Iran’s proxy in the government, Hezbollah, while trying to satisfy Lebanon’s outraged millions of protesters.