Lebanon Speaker Nabih Berri says no presidential vote until parliament passes reforms

Veteran politician frustrated by slow progress towards $3bn IMF bailout

Lebanon's Speaker Nabih Berri wants parliament to pass reforms needed for an IMF bailout before the end of August. Reuters
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Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said he will not call for a session to elect a new president until the legislature passes reforms sought by the International Monetary Fund as preconditions for a bailout.

An IMF deal is regarded as vital to Lebanon's economic recovery from a meltdown that has plunged the country into its most destabilising crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

Senior politicians have voiced concern about greater institutional deadlock if no successor is found to President Michel Aoun before his six-year term ends on October 31, especially if a new government has not been installed since elections in May.

“I will not call for a presidential election session until after the reform laws required by the IMF have been adopted,” Mr Berri said during media briefing at his Beirut residence on Saturday.

He said Parliament should work to pass the reforms before the end of August.

Mr Berri, the leader of the Amal party who has been Speaker for nearly three decades, said on Friday that a “miracle” would be needed for a government to be formed soon. He did not elaborate.

Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati was named as prime minister-designate in June but has yet to present a Cabinet line-up for Parliament's approval. His nomination for a fourth term in office was supported by 54 of the 128 members of parliament.

Under the constitution, the president issues the decree appointing a prime minister based on binding consultations with MPs, and must co-sign on the formation of any new Cabinet.

Lebanon reached a staff-level agreement with the IMF for a $3 billion bailout in April but a full deal is conditional on the passing of bills including capital controls, banking restructuring legislation and the 2022 budget.

Lebanon's constitution says the Speaker must convene Parliament “one month at least and two months at most before the expiration of the term of office of the President of the Republic”.

Failing that, the chamber meets automatically on the 10th day preceding the term's expiration, the constitution says.

Mr Aoun came to power after a 29-month presidential vacuum in which Parliament was unable to agree on electing a president. The stalemate ended with a series of deals that secured victory for Mr Aoun and his powerful Iran-backed ally Hezbollah.

Mr Aoun is limited to one term, and major political parties have not announced any agreement on his successor.

Updated: July 31, 2022, 11:08 AM