Lebanese protesters who have been demanding radical reform reacted with anger Friday to the reported designation of a new prime minister they regard as emblematic of a failed political system.
According to senior officials speaking on condition of anonymity and Lebanese press reports, key political players agreed that Mohammed Safadi should be tasked with forming the next government.
Outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned on October 29, nearly two weeks into the unprecedented nationwide protests demanding the wholesale removal of a ruling elite seen as corrupt and incompetent.
President Michel Aoun has said he will support the formation of a government including technocrats but he has not yet announced consultations over a new line-up and there was no official confirmation that Safadi had been designated.
Demonstrators in his hometown of Tripoli wasted no time in rejecting Safadi, however, and gathered in front of one of his properties to protest against a reported nomination they regard as a provocation.
"Choosing Mohammed Safadi for prime minister proves that the politicians who rule us are in a deep coma, as if they were on another planet," said Jamal Badawi, 60.
Another protester said that as a business tycoon and former minister, Safadi was an embodiment of the kind of political class the protest movement wants to remove.
"He's an integral part of this leadership's fabric," said Samer Anous, a university professor. "Safadi does not meet the aspirations of the popular uprising in Lebanon."
Safadi, 75, is a prominent businessman and former member of parliament from the predominantly Sunni city of Tripoli. He previously served in 2008 as minister of economy and trade in the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and in a Hariri-led Cabinet formed in 2009. From 2011-2014 he served as finance minister under Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
Second city Tripoli has been one of the main hubs of the month-old protest movement, with nightly rallies in its main squares.
A protest was planned in the afternoon at Zaytuna Bay, a luxury marina in central Beirut which is run by a company Safadi chairs.