Former Lebanese finance minister and business tycoon Mohammad Safadi has withdrawn his candidacy to be the next prime minister, reports said.
In a statement released by his office, Safadi, 75, said he saw that it would have been difficult to form a “harmonious” cabinet supported by all the parties, Reuters news agency and Lebanese media reported late on Saturday.
In the statement, Safadi is reported to have added that he hoped outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri would be designated again for the post.
Hariri quit on October 29 in the face of unprecedented anti-government protests against a ruling elite that is widely accused of overseeing rampant state corruption and steering Lebanon into its worst economic crisis since the 1975-90 war.
Safadi, a former member of parliament from the predominantly Sunni city of Tripoli, emerged as a candidate on Thursday when political sources and Lebanese media said three major parties had agreed to support him for the position.
On Thursday night, thousands of Lebanese protesters took to the streets of Beirut, shouting “Thief”, shortly after local media reports said Safadi had been nominated as the country’s next prime minister.
Protesters rejected Safadi’s potential nomination, saying it would run counter to nationwide protests calling to remove a political elite they see him as part of.
Safadi was finance minister from 2011 to 2014 under Prime Minister Najib Mikati, and was also previously minister of economy and trade.
Lebanon’s prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim, according to its sectarian power-sharing system.
The process for choosing a new premier requires President Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian, to formally consult members of parliament on their choice for prime minister. He must designate whoever gets the most votes.
Hezbollah and Amal have wanted Hariri to return as premier, but the Shiite groups and Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, have demanded the inclusion of both technocrats and politicians in the cabinet, while Hariri has insisted on a cabinet composed entirely of technocrats.