BEIRUT: Lebanon’s president asked Saad al-Hariri to form a new government on Thursday, after he won the support of a majority of MPs including the influential parliament speaker who said he would cooperate with efforts to set up the new cabinet.
Hariri’s nomination is part of a political deal that resulted in him endorsing one of his political opponents, Christian leader Michel Aoun, as head of state.
Parliament elected Aoun, an ally of the powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah, as president on Monday, ending a 29-month vacuum in the post.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, head of the Amal movement, had come out in opposition to the deal, voicing objections that had threatened to obstruct the formation of the new government.
But announcing his decision to endorse Hariri for prime minister on Thursday, Berri indicated he would cooperate in efforts to set up the new administration. “If there was no intention to cooperate, we would not have named him”, he said.
Hariri’s compromise over Aoun reflects the diminished role played in Lebanon by his regional backer Saudi Arabia, which is battling Iran for influence across the region.
Hezbollah’s MPs did not nominate anyone for the post of prime minister, reflecting lingering mistrust toward Hariri. But the group is expected to take part in his cabinet.
In Lebanon’s sectarian power-sharing system, the post of prime minister is reserved for a Sunni Muslim, the president must be a Maronite Christian, and the parliament speaker must be a Shia Muslim.