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Hariri optimistic on forming government
July 26, 2018
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BEIRUT: Lebanon’s prime minister-designate Saad Al Hariri said on Wednesday he was more optimistic than before that a new government would be formed.

“In the coming days we will complete the positive consultations with the president and God willing, matters are on the way to a solution,” he said in televised remarks after meeting President Michel Aoun.

“I am more optimistic than at any other time,” he added.

Foreign donors have said Lebanon, which held a parliamentary election on May 6, needs to form a government quickly to maintain confidence and start working on reforms to help its ailing economy.

Nearly all the new members of parliament backed Hariri to continue as prime minister in consultations with Aoun after the election, leading to his designation for the role.

In June he said he was “very close” to forming the government.

The new government, like the last one, is expected to include most major parties within Lebanon’s sectarian power-sharing system.

May’s elections were the first since 2009. Disputes between the country’s major political blocs caused paralysis for years until they agreed in 2016 on a national unity government.

The last government has continued as a caretaker administration since the election, in which allies of the Iran-backed Shi’ite movement Hezbollah gained in parliament. Lebanon’s security forces are increasingly bringing activists in for questioning over their social media posts.

Since last week, the government’s cyber crimes bureau has called in at least six activists because of comments they made on social media.

One was interrogated over a post blaming President Michel Aoun for the country’s widespread corruption, sluggish economy, and poor wages.

Others were questioned for mocking a “miracle” by a saint revered in Lebanon.

Dozens of people on Tuesday evening gathered in downtown Beirut to protest the “unprecedented degradation in freedom of expression.”

Many held up signs printed with the words “#Against oppression,” while one posed with a keyboard decorated with large paper-made handcuffs.

Diala Haidar, a Lebanon campaigner at Amnesty International, said the rights group has “noticed censorship increasingly interfering in spaces of expression in Lebanon.”


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