11/04/2022, 19.38
Send to a friend

Uncertainty reigns as Lebanon finds itself without a president and only caretaker government

by Fady Noun

Since 1 November, Lebanon has been without top government leaders, a possibility many saw coming. The country’s parliament is scheduled to meet next week to elect a new president, but rival blocs have scuttled every attempt so far. The Maronite patriarch calls for an international conference in Lebanon under UN auspices. The military remains a guarantor of stability.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – What had been feared for several months is now a reality. Since Tuesday, 1 November, Lebanon has been in a political and constitutional vacuum since parliament failed to elect a successor to Michel Aoun, whose mandate ended on the evening of 31 October.

After last May, following an indecisive general election, Lebanon has also been without a government voted in by parliament.

Michel Aoun’s departure thus marks the start of a period of uncertainty, this in a country where no parliamentary majority has emerged, and where a compromise seems still faraway.

Called by its speaker, parliament held a special meeting to vet a letter Mr Aoun sent before he left the president’s residence in Baabda.

In it, the now former head of state urges lawmakers to reverse their decision to appoint Nagib Mikati as caretaker prime minister. However, in the absence of any constitutional provision, parliament refused to follow the president in its line of reasoning.

To preserve public services, lawmakers also decided that the caretaker government, led by a Sunni, could continue to take care of current affairs, even without a head of state, traditionally a Maronite.

They also clarified that the government cannot exceed its functions and that it can meet only an exceptional basis in cases of national emergency and after consultation and approval of its political mentors.

This should ease the sectarian tensions that arose between Prime Minister Nagib Mikati and the Free Patriotic Movement, founded by the outgoing president, and chaired by his son-in-law, Gebran Bassil.

Replying to the president who had "accepted his resignation" on the eve of the expiry of his presidential mandate, despite a first public commitment not to do so, Mr Mikati told parliament that the presidential decree was superfluous since his cabinet had already resigned after last Mat’s general election.

More specifically, he said that he would carry out current affairs "in accordance with his constitutional duty", since in case of breach of this duty, the outgoing government would expose itself to serious "constitutional sanctions".

Speaking at the end of the session, the chairman of the Justice Committee, Georges Adwan (Lebanese Forces) said that the outgoing government can continue to deal with current affairs "in the strictest sense of the term", but without meeting since presidential prerogatives are transmitted to the cabinet and normally, a resigning cabinet does not meet. Mr Mikati explicitly agreed with this proviso.

At the end of the parliamentary session, the Speaker of the House, Nabih Berry, announced that he was going to summon MPs to elect a new president, on a weekly basis, starting next Thursday, 10 November, to give them time to consult between voting sessions. Mr Berry once again called for a political compromise to elect a new head of state.

The two main camps in parliament –  the Free Patriotic Movement allied with Shia parties, and the Lebanese Forces-Progressive Socialist Party group – have enough seats in parliament to block the election of a new president, which requires 86 votes or a two-third majority.

At the beginning of the session, two parliamentary groups, Kataeb (Phalanges) and lawmakers elected on the wave of the protest movement, challenged the meeting convened by the speaker to examine the president’s message.

Citing Article 25 of the constitution, they claim that since 31 October, the National Assembly became an electoral college and that, as a result, its task is to meet "exclusively and continuously" to elect a president.

Two other leading lawmakers backed this position, namely Sunni MP Ashraf Rifi (independent/Tripoli) and presidential candidate Michel Moawad (independent/Zghorta).

For his part, in a public statement made from Bahrain, where he is attending the Interreligious Forum, also attended by Pope Francis, the Maronite Patriarch, Card Bechara al-Rahi, called for a special conference under the auspices of the United Nations to resolve the points of discord.

Meanwhile, the Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces, General Joseph Aoun (no relation to the former president), made a strongly worded speech before a meeting of senior officers. In it he stressed that the military would severely deal with any attack on internal stability at this delicate phase in the country's history.

Send to a friend
Printable version
See also
Catholic music to promote dialogue in Ambon, the city of sectarian violence
17/10/2018 13:29
Ramos-Horta loses E Timor presidential election, Guterres and Ruak in runoff
Pope talks about the Middle East, the Holy Land and the food crisis with Bush
Sfeir brings concerns about his country’s future to the Vatican
Beirut, a divided parliament forced to agree on the President of the Republic
30/09/2022 13:05


Subscribe to Asia News updates or change your preferences

Subscribe now
“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”