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Saad Hariri in Uphill Battle to Form New Cabinet | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Lebanese President Michel Aoun sits at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, Oct. 31, 2016. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Future Movement leader Saad Hariri will now face the difficult task of forming Lebanon’s new government after he was named prime minister on Thursday.

“After the necessary parliamentary consultations… the president has entrusted Saad Hariri with the formation of a government,” said a statement read by President Michel Aoun’s chief of staff Antoine Choukeir.

The parliament elected Aoun Lebanon’s new president on Monday after Hariri dropped his support for Marada Movement leader MP Suleiman Franjieh and backed Aoun for the presidential race.

Aoun’s election ended a vacuum of more than two years that had paralyzed state institutions and severely affected the country’s economic situation.

Hariri was endorsed by 112 members of the 126 MPs, with only the Shi’ite so-called Hezbollah and the Lebanese Baath party — all supporters of Syria’s regime — declining to back him as prime minister.

The Syrian Social National Party, which also backs the Syrian regime, had left the decision to Aoun.

Speaker Nabih Berri, who heads the Amal Movement and who is Hezbollah’s ally, said on the second and last day of binding consultations that he backed Hariri.

The Future Movement leader’s return was assured as part of the deal he struck to throw his support behind Aoun, who is also a Hezbollah ally.

Hariri is the son of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in a massive seaside bombing in Feb. 2005 in Beirut.

Hariri returns to the post of prime minister five years after his last cabinet collapsed when his longtime rival Hezbollah and its allies pulled their ministers from a unity government that had taken months to form.

Other governments have also taken a long time to be formed due to rivalries and conflicting demands by different parties.

Hariri’s task with forming the new government will also be challenging because the different parties would eye important portfolios.

Berri was clear on Thursday in saying that he and his bloc nominated Hariri in hopes that the remaining parties “would cooperate” with him.

“If they want to cooperate with us, then we will do so as well. If they want us to be in the opposition, then let it be,” Berri told reporters.

Observers have said that the speaker will ask for so-called sovereign portfolios – such as the finance and the energy ministries – as a price for his consent to have representatives in the government.

Hariri told reporters after his nomination that he is looking forward to forming a national unity cabinet based on Aoun’s inauguration speech.

He said he was open to suggestions by all parliamentary blocs, even those who refused to name him.

“We will seek to agree on a fair electoral law and hold the (parliamentary) elections on time,” Hariri said, adding “we will work on protecting the nation from dangers mainly the terrorist threat.”