Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati has been named again by parliamentary blocks to head a new government. But few expect him to succeed in forming a new government in time for next October’s presidential elections amid unprecedented economic collapse and sharp political divisions.
He was named by an unusually low count of 54 MPs, 20 votes fewer than the last time. The low number reflects the sharp divisions among the political parties on how to deal with the current financial meltdown, one of the world’s worst economic crises since 1850, according to the World Bank.
Lebanon’s GDP plunged to an estimated $20.5 billion in 2021 from about $55 billion in 2018, a steep decline “usually associated with wars”, the World Bank noted. The Lebanese currency, the lira, has lost more than 90 per cent of its value, driving up the cost of living through the roof.
More than 80 per cent of Lebanon’s population are now classified as living under the poverty line, with the majority of families not being able to afford regular meals, according to the United Nations. A severe fuel shortage means that homes in Lebanon get the equivalent of one hour of electricity a day.
The low number of votes Mikati got on Thursday also indicates that forming a new government will be virtually an impossible task. Forming a government in Lebanon usually takes long months due to the delicate sectarian structure that needs to be taken into account to allocate ministerial portfolios.
This time around, the new government is expected to be short lived even if Mikati managed somehow to form a new cabinet because of the October constitutional deadline to elect a new president by the highly fractured parliament to replace Michel Aoun. A new Prime Minster will have to be appointed then.
The political deadlock means that Lebanon’s economic will only get worse as all proposed solutions will have to wait at least end of the year. And so will a proposed $3 billion deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), widely seen as the only viable solution today to bring back the country from the brink of total collapse.
It is hard to imagine what the Lebanese people are going through. And it is even harder to see how the situation can get any better in the current political conditions, dominated by Iran- backed Hezbollah, former warlords, and corrupt politicians.
Lebanon truly needs a miracle. It is highly unlikely that Mikati can deliver that miracle under these circumstances.