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Incoming Lebanese prime minister begins consultation on new government

Hassan Diab announced parliamentary consultations in the face of a continuing protest movement
Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab gives a statement following his meeting with outgoing prime minister Saad Hariri in Beirut on 20 December 2019 (AFP)

Lebanon's incoming prime minister began the process of preparing a new government as he seeks to calm protests that have rocked the country for months.

Hassan Diab was appointed on Thursday by President Michel Aoun after several weeks of political negotiations in the face of an unprecedented popular movement since 17 October denouncing the entire ruling class, deemed corrupt and incompetent.

The movement pushed prime minister Saad Hariri and his government to resign on 29 October and since then has been calling for the formation of a cabinet of technocrats and independents.

Parliamentary consultations started with a meeting between Diab and the Head of Parliament, Nabih Berri, who insisted on the need to form a government representative of all parliamentary blocs and of the demonstrators.

But some parties have already expressed their reluctance, even their refusal, to participate in the next cabinet.

'Political' government

On Saturday, the Druze leader Walid Joumblatt's bloc announced the boycott of the consultations and announced that it would not participate in the government.

For his part, Hariri has not publicly supported his successor, while the main Sunni parliamentary bloc he chairs "will not participate in the next government," a source close to the source told AFP on Friday.

The Lebanese Forces (FL), a Christian party whose ministers were the first to resign after the start of the protest movement, have repeatedly announced their refusal to join a "political" government.

On Friday, Diab, whose appointment was supported by the Shia Hezbollah movement and its allies, including the president's party, promised to "form a government of independent technocrats," echoing street demands.

The little known academic former minister of education called on the demonstrators to "give him a chance" to form an "exceptional government" and promised to meet on Sunday "various representatives" of the protest movement.

But the support given to its designation by Hezbollah and its allies has fuelled the anger of part of the street, in particular Sunnis, who see it as a marginalisation of their community in this multi-faith country.

On Saturday, roads were blocked in the Akkar region and in Tripoli, in the north of the country, after a Friday that was marked by scuffles in Beirut.