Lebanese billionaire Mikati chosen to form a new government

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Lebanese lawmakers on Thursday named outgoing Prime Minister Najib Mikati to form a new government, more than a month after legislative elections that failed to yield a clear majority.

The 66-year-old billionaire, who was expected to keep his job, won 54 votes in parliamentary consultations, giving him a clear advantage over other potential candidates.

President Michel Aoun then asked him to form a new government, a task analysts fear will take weeks or even months, despite the economic emergency facing the country.

Lebanon defaulted on its debt in 2020, the local currency lost around 90% of its value on the black market, and the UN now considers four out of five Lebanese to be poor.

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By convention, the post of Lebanese Prime Minister is reserved for a Sunni Muslim, the presidency goes to a Maronite Christian and the post of president to a Shiite Muslim.

His closest rival for the post of prime minister-designate was former United Nations ambassador Nawaf Salam, who won just 25 votes.

Most of the deputies in the 128-seat Lebanese parliament chose not to nominate any candidate.

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The powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah movement, whose political alliance lost the clear majority it had in the previous parliament, threw its weight behind Mikati.

The Tripoli native, who is the richest man in bankrupt Lebanon, has already led three governments since 2005.

Analysts expect him to struggle to reach an agreement for a fourth administration. The current cabinet was formed in September last year after a 13-month wait.

The International Monetary Fund announced in April that a conditional agreement had been reached to provide Lebanon with $3 billion in aid and help its economy recover.

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The institution, however, warned that its approval hinged on the timely implementation of reforms by Lebanon, whose key power brokers are widely seen as corrupt.

In a statement after his appointment on Thursday, Mikati called for “cooperation with parliament to approve the reforms”.

“Without an agreement with the IMF, there can be no bailout,” he said in the statement issued by his office.

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