Lebanese Parliament to discuss president's letter over Cabinet formation

In the letter, Michel Aoun blames prime minister-designate Saad Hariri for obstructing the creation of a Cabinet

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun accused prime minister-designate Saad Hariri of obstructing the formation of a new government. Dalati Nohra via Reuters
Lebanon's President Michel Aoun accused prime minister-designate Saad Hariri of obstructing the formation of a new government. Dalati Nohra via Reuters

The Lebanese Parliament will convene on Saturday to discuss a letter from President Michel Aoun that accuses prime minister-designate Saad Hariri of obstructing the formation of a government to address the country's worst economic crisis in decades

Mr Aoun's letter was read out in Parliament during a brief sitting on Friday before Speaker Nabih Berri scheduled another session on Saturday to discuss it.

Mr Aoun's letter lays the blame for the deadlock and its social and economic repercussions on Mr Hariri, who has been at loggerheads with the president over the Cabinet’s make-up and reform agenda.

Mr Hariri accuses the president of blocking the formation of a Cabinet of non-partisan experts by seeking to nominate more than a third of the government posts in a bid to secure veto power over key decisions.

The political deadlock has left Lebanon without a government since last August, when a massive explosion at Beirut port killed more than 200 people and destroyed large parts of the capital. The blast prompted the resignation of the government led by Hassan Diab a few days later.

The international community is insisting that Lebanon’s political leaders form a Cabinet to undertake reforms before any financial assistance is provided.

On Wednesday, former prime ministers Najib Mikati, Fouad Siniora and Tamam Salam denounced the president’s letter as an attempt to shift blame and to infringe on the constitutional powers of the prime-minister designate, a post reserved for Sunnis under Lebanon’s confessional power sharing system.

The president, a Christian, has accused Mr Hariri of seeking to dictate the Cabinet line-up in breach of the constitution, which requires both officials to sign off on the formation decree before the proposed government can seek a vote of confidence in Parliament.

Ibrahim Kanaan, a member of Parliament from the Free Patriotic Movement founded by Mr Aoun, said on Friday that the president’s letter was aimed at breaking the political deadlock and helping Lebanon to weather its deepening crisis.

In a bid to defuse tension between Mr Hariri’s Future Movement and the Free Patriotic Movement led by Mr Aoun’s son-in-law Gebran Bassil before tomorrow's session, Mr Berri met with the prime minister-designate on the sidelines of the session on Friday.

Mr Hariri and Mr Bassil, a staunch ally of the Iran-backed Lebanese armed group Hezbollah, are expected to deliver remarks during Saturday’s session.

Updated: May 21, 2021 06:46 PM

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