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Graphic shows a timeling of Lebanon’s politica crisis.
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POLITICS

Lebanon crisis handed to PM-designate Najib Mikati

By Duncan Mil

July 28, 2021 - Lebanese lawmakers have tasked ex-premier and billionaire Najib Mikati with forming a government and ending a political deadlock that has crippled the economy.

Mikati faces the daunting challenge of trying to steer Lebanon out of what the World Bank says is one of the world’s worst financial crises in more than 150 years.

Since October 2019, tens of thousands of largely peaceful protesters have taken to the streets calling for economic accountability and an end to rampant political corruption. Although the cabinet of Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned, many of the individuals who dominate Lebanon’s political scene remained in power.

In January 2020, a new cabinet under Prime Minister Hassan Diab was appointed, but protests continued. Following a government default on the repayment of a $1.2-billion Eurobond, Diab applied for $10 billion in aid from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). When Iran-backed Hezbollah lawmakers rejected cooperation with the IMF, the negotiations floundered.

On August 4, an explosion at the port of Beirut killed more than 200 people, injured 7,500 others, and left around 300,000 people homeless. The blast -- caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate -- triggered public outrage. Diab quit within days.

At the end of August, the former Lebanese ambassador to Germany, Mustapha Adib, was named prime minister-designate. Shia Amal and Hezbollah lawmakers also blocked Adib’s attempts at reforms and a deal with the IMF.

In October, Saad Hariri returned as prime minister for the fourth time.

By June 2021, Hariri’s government had raised fuel prices by more than 35 per cent and hiked bread prices for the fifth time in a year. The Lebanese pound pegged to the U.S. dollar at 1,507 plunged to 17,500 on the black market. Protesters tried to storm central bank branch offices.

Hariri quit on July 15 to be replaced by Harvard-educated Mikati, 65, on Monday (July 26).

Sources
PUBLISHED: 28/07/2021; STORY: Graphic News; PICTURES: Getty Images
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