Tammam Salam, a Sunni member of parliament (MP), has been endorsed by the March 14th political alliance to serve as Lebanon's next prime minister following the resignation of Najib Mikati at the end of March.
March 14th, an alliance of political groups that oppose Syrian influence on Lebanon, have endorsed Mr Salam, who is an independent but allied to the Sunni-supported Future Movement. He visited Saad Hariri, a former prime minister and unofficial head of Lebanon's Sunni community, in his self-imposed exile in Saudi Arabia before returning and holding meetings with representatives from the rest of the political alliance. Mr Salam's nomination also received a fillip when the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP), Walid Jumblatt, said the MPs in his Druze-supported party would support his nomination.
The combined support of March 14th and the PSP would mean Mr Salam has a majority of support in Lebanon's parliament. However, Mr Jumblatt has said he would only be willing to support a government, and presumably a prime minister, that was willing to stretch and work across the political divide and include members of the March 8th alliance, which was in control of the recently deposed government and is closer to Syria. Michel Aoun, leader of the March 8th-allied Free Patriotic Movement, said his party would support Mr Salam.
Although the rival factions have been quick to agree on a figure for prime minister, discussions over the composition of the cabinet may be dragged out. Negotiations over allocations of ministries will be particularly tense, as the next Lebanese cabinet will oversee the awarding of licences for offshore oil and gas exploration and will still need to manage the impact of the Syrian civil war on Lebanon. Any chance of genuine reforms or new directions in policymaking are likely to be put aside as political blocs in the country continue to debate a new electoral law that needs to be approved ahead of a parliamentary election in June. Given the political uncertainty facing the country, the poll is likely to be pushed back to later this year. Forming the last Lebanese government took five months of negotiations, and given the current gulf between the two political blocs we expect that the formation of a new government will again be drawn out.
Impact on the forecast
We will adjust our forecast if Mr Salam is named as prime minister as expected. However, we continue to hold our view that Lebanon will be at risk of political instability so long as the civil war in Syria continues.