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Businessman Najib Mikati secures majority vote of Lebanon parl., becomes new prime minister-designate

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun (L) meets with leading businessman Najib Mikati at the presidential palace in Baabda, Beirut, Lebanon, on July 26, 2021.

Lebanon's businessman Najib Mikati has secured enough votes in parliamentary consultations to be nominated as the country's new prime minister-designate, ending a months-long political deadlock over the matter.

According to media reports, Mikati secured 73 votes out of 118 members of the parliament during consultations that followed his meeting with President Michel Aoun on Monday.

After security the Lebanese parliament’s vote, Mikati said he will work to form a new government and implement a plan to save the country from its crippling financial crisis.

"I don't have a magic wand and can't perform miracles... but I have studied the situation for a while and have international guarantees," Mikati added.

Earlier on Monday, Mikati held a brief meeting with Aoun more than a week after former premier-designate, Saad Hariri, stepped down as a result of a nine-month political deadlock.

Mikati did not make any remarks after the meeting, which was considered as the formal beginning of consultations to choose the new prime minister-designate. He was already expected to receive the support of a majority of parliamentarians and start forming a desperately-needed government.

Mikati received endorsements from three former Lebanese prime ministers, namely Hariri, Fuad Siniora, and Tammam Salam, a day earlier, when the four held a meeting in capital Beirut, ahead of Monday’s scheduled selection process.

After meeting Aoun, Hariri expressed hope that Mikati would be chosen and succeed in forming a cabinet. “The country has a chance today,” Hariri said.

Mikati also gained the endorsement of Speaker Nabih Berri, the Progressive Socialist Party, and the Amal Movement, with the Hezbollah movement endorsing him as well.

“Today, [there are] ... signs that hint at the possibility of forming a government ... that's why we named Mikati, to give an extra boost to facilitate forming a government," Muhammad Raad, the leader of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc, told reporters ahead of the parliamentary consultations.

The new prime minister-designate will need to agree with Aoun on the composition of any new government amid growing problems faced by the country, including a crippling financial crisis and severe shortages of basic goods such as medicine and fuel.

Back in May, 51-year-old Hariri, who is a veteran Sunni Muslim politician, said that he would not form a government that simply complies with the wishes of the president, who is a Maronite Christian, nor any other political faction.

Hariri was tasked with forming a government for a fourth time in October 2020. That was one year after he resigned as prime minister amid mass protests.

A caretaker administration by Hassan Diab has run the small country for nearly a year, while the currency has collapsed, jobs have vanished and banks have frozen accounts.

Under Lebanon's sectarian system, the premier must be a Sunni Muslim. Aoun is required to choose the candidate with the greatest support from legislators.

The Mediterranean country plunged into a political vacuum in August 2020, when the previous administration, led by then Prime Minister Hassan Diab, resigned following a devastating explosion at the port in Beirut that destroyed swathes of the capital and left more than 200 people dead.

The country’s currency has lost more than 90 percent of its value since fall 2019 and more than half of the population has been rendered jobless as businesses have shut down.

Half of the population is now living below the poverty line as prices are skyrocketing and the COVID-19 pandemic rages on.

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