Aoun Mikati
© AFP
Lebanon's President Michel Aoun (left) meeting with two-time premier Najib Mikati at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of the capital Beirut on July 26, 2021.
Beirut: Leading Lebanese businessman Najib Mikati secured enough votes in parliamentary consultations on Monday to be designated the next prime minister, raising hopes for an urgently needed viable government to tackle a crippling financial crisis.

Mikati, who has been prime minister twice before and unlike many Lebanese leaders does not hail from a political bloc or dynasty, received 72 votes out of a total of 118 members of parliament.

  • Mikati, a Sunni Muslim, was chosen as caretaker prime minister in April 2005, when an outcry over Rafik Hariri's killing forced Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon.
  • Mikati served three months until the election won by an alliance of Sunni, Druze and Christian parties led by Hariri's son, Saad.
  • Mikati was nominated prime minister again in June 2011, resigning in May 2013 and staying on in a caretaker capacity until February 2014.
  • The soft-spoken, Harvard-educated Mikati began building his Investcom business in the midst of Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war.
  • He sold his telecoms interests to South Africa's MTN Group for $5.5 billion in 2006.
  • In 2007 he founded the M1 Group, which has various investment interests. This month, Norwegian telecoms operator Telenor sold its Myanmar operations to M1 Group for $105 million.
  • Mikati served as minister of public works and transport in three cabinets between 1998 and 2004.
Like the previous nominee, Saad Hariri, he now faces major challenges in navigating Lebanon's sectarian, power-sharing structure to secure agreement on a cabinet equipped to address the country's financial meltdown.

While Lebanon has been run by a caretaker administration for nearly a year, since a huge blast devastated large parts of Beirut, its currency has collapsed, jobs have vanished and banks have frozen accounts. The economic freefall is Lebanon's worst crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.

Hezbollah, the heavily armed militant movement that the United States deems a terrorist group, nominated Mikati in Monday's consultations and most of the main parliamentary blocs endorsed the choice.

"Today, with 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," Mohammad Raad, the leader of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc, told reporters.

Among Mikati's endorsers was Hariri, who abandoned his effort to form a new government last week after nearly 10 months of failing to agree its composition with Aoun.

Hariri told reporters after meeting Aoun that he hoped Mikati, a telecoms tycoon, would be chosen and succeed in forming a cabinet. "The country has a chance today," he said.

The news of Mikati's designation boosted the Lebanese pound on the unofficial parallel market earlier on Monday, where dollars changed hands at around 16,500 pounds, compared to over 22,000 at the height of the deadlock over the government.

In Lebanon's political system, the post of prime minister has to be held by a Sunni Muslim, while the presidency is held by a Maronite Christian.

Western governments have been piling pressure on Lebanon, one of the most heavily indebted states in the world, to form a government that can set about reforming the corrupt state. They have threatened to impose sanctions and said financial support will not flow before reforms begin.