A Little-Known Diplomat Will Become Lebanon’s New Premier

A little-known diplomat has been asked to form Lebanon’s next government, tasked with guiding the country through one of the deepest economic crises in its recent history and rebuilding a capital city shattered by this month’s blast.

Mustafa Adib, an academic and Lebanon’s ambassador to Germany, has received 90 nominations from parliamentarians so far, giving him the majority required to secure the premiership after he won the backing of key political groupings.

A Little-Known Diplomat Will Become Lebanon’s New Premier

“This is no time for talk and promises, but to work,” Adib told reporters after accepting the nomination, vowing to swiftly create a new cabinet. “We will form a homogeneous team of specialists.”

All political parties are aware that reforms must be enacted quickly, in part to make progress on stalled talks with the International Monetary Fund, he said.

The breakthrough came hours before French President Emmanuel Macron, who is coordinating international aid efforts for Lebanon, arrives in Beirut to meet key officials. Macron visited the country two days after the blast and called for a new political pact, a policy-oriented government and early parliamentary elections.

Adib replaces Hassan Diab, also an academic, whose short-lived government quit in the aftermath of a massive blast that leveled the port of Beirut, damaged tens of thousands of homes and killed more than 180 people.

Diab was named by the president’s party and its allies in the Hezbollah-led alliance, but failed to win the support of fellow Sunni Muslim leaders or implement economic reforms required to unlock billions of dollars in international aid and win IMF assistance. Adib has secured broader political backing, which should give him greater chances of success.

Adib served as an adviser to former Prime Minister Najib Mikati from 2000 and was ambassador to Germany since 2013. He has a doctorate in law and political science and taught at the Lebanese University.

As word of his nomination leaked out on Sunday, it was met with dismay by many Lebanese at the forefront of protests that erupted in October and sought to overthrow an entire ruling class blamed for decades of corruption and mismanagement that bled state coffers dry. The uprising brought down the government of Saad Hariri.

‘Another Maneuver’

“This is yet another maneuver by the failed regime to re-float itself,” Samy Gemayel, a parliamentarian who resigned earlier this month, said on Twitter. “The mechanism is clear. One decides, a part executes, and the other part covers up. This is making a fool of people and prevents change.”

Diab took office in January, promptly defaulting on $30 billion in international debt and turning to the IMF for help in securing some $10 billion to support wide-ranging reforms.

Shackled by years of patronage and sectarianism, and facing significant domestic opposition, Diab’s team failed to clinch the IMF deal and was unable to enact reforms in the electricity sector, for instance, or address corruption concerns as required by the international community.

The blast at the port exacerbated the crisis which is estimated by the World Bank to have caused as much as $4.6 billion in physical damage.

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