Lebanon’s PM-designate begins consultations

Hassan Diab, who is backed by Hezbollah, consults parliamentary blocs to discuss the shape of the future government.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Hassan Diab
Hassan Diab

Lebanon’s newly designated prime minister on Saturday began his consultations with parliamentary blocs to discuss the shape of the future government, The Associated Press reported.

Hassan Diab, a university professor and former education minister who was backed by the Hezbollah terrorist organization, was tasked on Thursday with the formation of a government amid ongoing nationwide protests against the country’s ruling elite.

The consultations began a day after scuffles broke out in Beirut and other areas between supporters of the outgoing prime minister, Saad Hariri, and Lebanese troops and riot policemen.

The ex-premier’s supporters were protesting Diab’s nomination. The scuffles left at least seven soldiers injured, according to AP.

Diab began his meetings Saturday at parliament with Speaker Nabih Berri, then held talks with former prime ministers, including caretaker premier Hariri, who resigned in October in the wake of the unprecedented nationwide demonstrations.

While Hariri initially looked like he might attempt to keep his seat, he said on Wednesday his name was drawing too much opposition for him to be a candidate.

Hariri cautioned his supports Saturday against violent protests, saying, “The army is ours and police forces are for all Lebanese.”

While Diab is backed by Hezbollah and its Shiite allies, he lacks the support of major Sunni figures, including the largest Sunni party headed by Hariri.

The protests were initially started in response to what has become known as the “WhatsApp Tax”, which would have seen a 20-cent daily fee being charged for messaging app users. The tax was later scrapped but the protests have continued and have morphed into a cross-sectarian street mobilization against a political system seen as corrupt and broken.

Hezbollah, which has a strong political presence in Lebanon, was a major part of Hariri’s cabinet, after the group and its allies gained more than half the seats of the 128-member Lebanese parliament in the election last May.