BEIRUT: The Lebanese Parliament has decided that the interim government led by Najib Mikati can be entrusted with the powers of the presidency in a leadership vacuum, in accordance with constitutional principles.
Former President Michel Aoun sent a letter to parliament on Sunday, 24 hours before the end of his term, asking MPs to withdraw their confidence in Mikati’s government. He argued that he has no legitimacy and should not assume the duties of the presidency.
Parliament held a session to discuss the letter on Thursday. Some MPs said the correspondence was unnecessary given that the Lebanese constitution gives even the interim government the right to run the country in light of a presidential vacuum. They stressed that the priority is to elect a president, not to discuss governments.
This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)
Other MPs, including Aoun’s bloc, the Free Patriotic Movement, said the letter would transfer the dispute between Aoun and Mikati to parliament.
Many representatives warned of such conflicts causing sectarian strife between Maronite and Sunni sects.
After the reading of Aoun’s letter, reformist MPs, the Kataeb party and MP Michel Mouawad left the meeting room on the grounds that “in accordance with article 75, parliament is now an electoral body only and does not is empowered to exercise any other function.
Mikati said during the session that if his government failed to fulfill its responsibilities, including in interim mode, it would be subject to constitutional liability for violating its duties, as Article 70 explicitly states.
Mouawad said: “This is an attempt to create sectarian tension to justify the power vacuum. Those who want to defend the powers of the president must respect the constitution and elect a president.
Sami Gemayel, leader of the Kataeb party, said: “Aoun’s letter aims to create tension and inflame sectarian strife among the Lebanese.
“If the objective is to drag parliament into conflict, there is no need to hold this session because our mission is to elect a president.”
Reform MPs said electing a head of state should take priority over other issues and holding a session to read and discuss a letter was a mistake at the moment.
MP Bilal Al-Hashimi said: “We don’t want to discuss issues that are now a thing of the past. We have to elect a president because the people can no longer bear the miserable economic and social situation.
MP Ghassan Hasbani, of the Lebanese Forces, said the priority was to elect a president without getting distracted by side issues.
The session, which was held without the presence of the media, ended with the recommendation of the Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, Nabih Berri, that any change to the status quo requires a constitutional amendment, and now is not the time. .
A heated debate took place between Strida Geagea of the Lebanese Forces and the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gebran Bassil, over the popular representation of the next president. Geagea said her husband, Samir Geagea, has the strongest Christian base in terms of popularity.
Bassil defended Aoun’s letter after the session, accusing Mikati of not wanting to form a government before the end of Aoun’s term and of deliberately driving the country into a power vacuum.
Berri withdrew the call for dialogue he had made to agree on a presidential candidate, citing the objections of the LF and FPM to such a discussion between the blocs.
The constitutional deadline for electing a new president ended with Aoun’s tenure, and parliament has so far, after four voting sessions, failed to present any candidate.
Hezbollah and its allies deliberately disrupt quorum, vote blank, refrain from naming a candidate, and accuse other candidates of being provocative.
Berri, who set Nov. 10 as the new voting date, said, “Starting next week, we will hold a weekly voting session until a president is finally elected.”
Mikati said in his speech at the Arab Summit on Wednesday: “The lighthouse has gone out; the port that was considered the gateway to the East suffered an explosion; and the lights at the airport, which should be a connecting hub, are out for lack of fuel.
“The Lebanese are facing the worst economic crisis in the history of Lebanon. We place our hopes on our Arab brothers to help our country, so don’t leave us alone.