Violette Safadi, Raya Al Hassan
Clociwise from top-left: Violette Safadi, Raya Al Hassan, May Chidiac and Nada Bustani. Image Credit: Supplied

Beirut: Lebanon’s newly formed government has a record number of women ministers.

Lebanese political factions agreed Thursday to form a new government, breaking a nine-month deadlock that only deepened the country’ economic woes.

For the first time, the cabinet includes four women ministers, doubling their representation. They include Raya Al Hassan, who was named to the powerful Ministry of Interior in charge of internal security.

Al Hassan, a member of Hariri’s party, was a former Cabinet minister.

Lebanese Premier Sa’ad Hariri’s party also named Violette Safadi to be state minister for women’s affairs, a post previously held by a man.

May Chidiac, who lost her arm and leg in an assassination attempt in a 2005 bombing, was named state minister for administrative development by the Christian Lebanese Forces group.

Another woman, Nada Bustani, was named by the president’s political faction to hold the strategic post of energy minister.

Celebrations broke out after the announcement, including huge fireworks that lit up the Beirut sky, and rallies in support of Hariri.

Hariri called the new government “a reflection of Lebanon’s image in 2019.”

The announcement was expected to ease anxiety over Lebanon’s sinking economic credentials after international agencies downgraded the country’s credit ratings over concerns about the government’s ability to pay its massive debt.

Rival political groups had been locked in disagreement over the make-up of a new government since May, after the country’s first parliamentary elections in nine years.

Lebanon’s powerful Shiite group Hezbollah made significant gains at the expense of the largest Sunni party, headed by Hariri, further contributing to traditional horse trading among rival factions to form governments in Lebanon.

A breakthrough became possible after weeks of backroom deals as economic pressures mounted.

The rival factions worked out a compromise allowing representation of Sunni lawmakers backed by Hezbollah, increasing the group’s allies in the government.

At a glance:

1) The new government will be headed by Hariri, the Western-backed Sunni politician who has held the job since 2016.

The post always goes to a Sunni politician under the country’s political system.

2) The 30-seat government sees an increase in the number of ministries affiliated with the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group, which is under tightening sanctions from the United States that labels the group a terrorist organisation.

For the first time, the group now holds the Ministry of Health, which has one of the country’s largest budgets. Hariri had warned against Hezbollah holding the Health Ministry fearing it would be hit with sanctions too.

The new health minister, Jamil Jabbak, is not a member of Hezbollah but is believed to be close to the group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, and was his personal physician at one point.

The Finance Ministry remained in the hands of a Hezbollah ally, Ali Hassan Khalil.

3) Gebran Bassil, the son-in-law of the Lebanese president, remains foreign minister.