Hezbollah-backed Candidate Tapped as Lebanon’s New PM in Bid to End Deadlock

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun has officially designated Hezbollah-backed candidate Hassan Diab as the country's new prime minister in a televised speech on Thursday

Diab, a little-known academic and former education minister,vowed to form a government quickly that works to pull the country out of economic crisis and reassures people who have protested against the political class for two months. "All our efforts must now focus on stopping the collapse and restoring confidence," he said from the presidential palace.

President Michel Aoun hosted consultations on Thursday with deputies to pick the new premier, who had to be a Sunni Muslim under the country's sectarian power-sharing system. Aoun was required to designate the candidate with the most support from Lebanon's 128 MPs.

Lebanese army soldiers standing guard as students take part in a protest in the southern city of Sidon, Lebanon, November 5, 2019.ALI HASHISHO/REUTERS

The nomination sets the stage for the formation of a cabinet that excludes allies of the United States and Sunni Gulf Arab countries while underlining the influence of Iran’s friends in Lebanon.

Lebanon, wrestling with the worst economic crisis since the 1975-90 civil war, has been in dire need of a new government since outgoing Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri resigned on October 29, prompted by protests against the ruling elite.

But efforts to agree a new premier and government have been mired in divisions that reflect tensions between Hariri, who is aligned with Western and Gulf Arab states, and the heavily armed Hezbollah, which is under U.S. sanctions and listed as a terrorist group by Washington.