On Thursday, Hariri told reporters that President Michel Aoun had not accepted his latest Cabinet lineup less than 24 hours after the three-time prime minister submitted the proposal.
“During the conversation we proposed that the president take more time to think about the proposal, and (Aoun) said that it looks like we’re not going to agree,” Hariri told reporters following the 20-minute meeting.
“For that reason I have stepped down from forming the government. God help this country,” he added.
In a statement, the Lebanese presidency office cast doubt on Hariri’s willingness to form a government.
According to the statement, Hariri refused Aoun’s request for amendments to the proposal and added that Hariri’s ruling out of further discussion indicated that he had already “taken a prior decision to resign.”
Prior to the meeting, Aoun received a joint message from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and French Foreign Minister Yves Le Drian calling on him to expedite the government formation, according to a statement from Aoun’s office. The message was submitted through US ambassador to Beirut Dorothy Shea and French ambassador Anne Grillo.
Protesters took to the streets shortly after Hariri’s announcement, blocking major highways and clashing with security forces. In the southern city of Tyre, some youths have vandalized restaurants and cafes and driven customers out, according to Lebanon’s National News Agency.
Despair and anger
Aoun, whose political party controls the country’s largest parliamentary bloc, has been at loggerheads with Hariri over the Cabinet formation.
The political infighting has fueled feelings of despair and anger towards Lebanon’s ruling elite on Lebanon’s streets. Many Lebanese have grown increasingly frustrated with what is viewed as business-as-usual political wrangling in the face of a growing economic catastrophe.
In a December 2020 report, the World Bank dubbed Lebanon’s economic crisis a “deliberate depression” in which government inaction exacerbated the effects of the financial crisis.
CNN’s Hamdi Alkhshali contributed to this report from Atlanta.