Jul 16, 2021 - World

Lebanon's PM-designate steps down as political crisis escalates

Saad Hariri
Saad Hariri. Photo: Lebanese Presidency/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Lebanon's Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri stepped down Thursday amid months of deadlock and years-long turmoil over the country's economic collapse.

Driving the news: His departure sinks the chances of forming a government to pursue immediate reforms for recovery, per AP, and is likely to bring greater instability to Lebanon.

  • Supporters of Hariri, one of Lebanon’s most prominent Sunni Muslim leaders, and other protesters blocked roads and set fire to tires in parts of Beirut following the news.
  • Troops fired rubber-coated steel bullets and used armored vehicles to force open roads to disperse protests, while demonstrators threw stones at soldiers, Al Jazeera reports.
  • There is no clear candidate to replace Hariri, who cited "key differences" with the president.
rotestors confront Lebanese soldiers during a demonstration after Lebanon's Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri stepped down
Protesters confront Lebanese soldiers during a demonstration in Beirut. Photo: Marwan Naamani/Picture alliance via Getty Images

Catch up quick: Lebanon has not had a working government since Prime Minister Hassan Diab's Cabinet resigned days after a deadly explosion last August. Protesters blamed the disaster, which killed more than 211 people, injured 6,000 and left roughly 250,000 homeless, on the ruling elite's corruption.

What they're saying: "I have excused myself from forming the government," Hariri said after a 20-minute meeting with President Michel Aoun, according to AP. "May God help the country."

  • Under the country's sectarian-based political system, the prime minister comes from the Sunni community.
  • Hariri told Al-Jadeed TV that he doesn't plan to endorse a replacement.
  • Aoun has said he will consult with parliamentary blocs.

Hariri's resignation is "yet another disappointing development for the Lebanese people," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

  • "The Lebanese economy is in free-fall, and the current government is not providing basic services in a reliable fashion," he added. "It is critical that a government committed and able to implement priority reforms be formed now."

Worth noting: The national currency dropped to a new low on Thursday. The Lebanese pound, which has been pegged to the dollar for 30 years, lost more than 90% of its value, AP reports.

The big picture: Lebanon has undergone one of the world's worst economic collapses in history since 2019.

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