On Monday, Najib Mikati, Lebanon's new Prime Minister, summed up the scale of the task ahead as he attempts to form a Cabinet in the nightmare that is the country's politics: “I don't have a magic wand and can't perform miracles."
It is not normal for newly chosen leaders to speak about magic and miracles, but Lebanon is not in a normal situation. In 2020, real GDP contracted by more than 20 per cent. More than 70 per cent of the capital's buildings were ruined or damaged after an entirely preventable explosion last year killed more than 200 people. And almost 50 per cent of the country's population now live below the poverty line.
Lebanon, therefore, needs whatever good news it can get. There are a few reasons why Mr Mikati's selection could be just that.
One is the very fact that he has been chosen. The country's politics has been in a dangerous stalemate for far too long. And getting into power in Lebanon requires significant political consensus across its confessional governing system. Mr Mikati, a Sunni politician, enters office with the support of 72 MPs, including some affiliated with influential blocs such as the militant organisation Hezbollah, the Speaker of Parliament's Amal Movement and a key party that represents the country's Druze population.
Then there is the career and record of Mr Mikati himself. He has been Prime Minister of Lebanon before, meaning he is familiar with the complexity of its politics. He has a reputation for hard work and good political judgment. While there are questions surrounding financial mismanagement during his time in office, his business acumen is widely recognised, making the billionaire one of the richest men in the Arab world.
Mr Mikati also claims that he starts his leadership having secured substantive political "guarantees" that will help him form a Cabinet, though he has not given much detail on the nature of these promises.
There are also good reasons to be sceptical. Being a former prime minister, he is part of an establishment that is responsible for the tragic situation the country is in today, and there are fears that at least some of his motivations today might be questionable. During the past year, protesters have demonstrated outside his house, accusing him of amassing wealth as ordinary citizens slip into poverty.
And while he has brought important politicians on side, he has failed to secure the backing of key Christian parties, a crucial political camp for securing progress given they control the presidency. It is yet to be seen if they will support his efforts to form a government.
Despite challenges, securing a Cabinet is the best, perhaps the only way forward. It will untie politics at the domestic level and fulfil the condition on which the international community, led by France, will give Beirut desperately needed financial aid.
As Mr Mikati has said, there are no magical or miraculous solutions, only hard work. He starts his tenure in a very difficult position, but there is a national recognition of a need to get out of this position. Notwithstanding any dubiousness in his political background – few politicians have a perfect record – we should wish him the best as he sets out on a critical mission.