BEIRUT: Amid a row among its members over exercising the president’s prerogatives, the Cabinet resumes Tuesday its discussions on a mechanism to fill the power vacuum following Parliament’s failure to pick a successor to former President Michel Sleiman.
Unfettered by the raging debate over exercising the president’s prerogatives during the presidential void, Prime Minister Tammam Salam vowed that his government would work in line with the Constitution, which vests full executive powers, including the president’s prerogatives, with the Cabinet until a new president is elected.
“The country is going through extraordinary circumstances. The Cabinet will deal with this situation in an exceptional manner without ignoring the vacancy in the presidency post,” Salam told MTV.
Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt defended the Cabinet exercising full executive powers in the absence of a president.
“The Constitution’s articles with regard to transferring the president’s prerogatives to the Cabinet in the event of a vacancy are clear,” Jumblatt told a local TV station.
He called for putting an end to political “outbiddings” over the issue of the president’s prerogatives during the presidential void.
During its first meeting last Friday since the end of Sleiman’s six-year term on May 25, the Cabinet agreed that Salam would send the agenda to the ministers 72 hours ahead of the scheduled session, but further discussion was needed to finalize the mechanism.
One key issue that remains to be resolved is whether Cabinet decrees need the signatures of all the 24 ministers, or only a third or half of them.
In the latest bid to break the presidential stalemate that has already paralyzed Parliament legislation and threatens government work, Jumblatt and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil were reported to be planning separate visits to Paris for talks with former Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
The Daily Star was not able to reach Jumblatt or Bassil for comments on the reported trips.
Bassil – Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun’s son-in-law – met Hariri last month as part of the ongoing contacts between the FPM and the Future Movement on the presidential election. Aoun is seeking the Future Movement’s support for his candidacy for the presidency.
If they take place, the Paris talks would come amid signs that the next Parliament session to elect a president on June 9 is destined to fail like the previous five sessions due to a lack of the two-thirds quorum (86) of the legislature’s 128 members.
Hezbollah called Sunday for the speedy election of a new president, stressing that an accord between the rival factions on a consensus candidate was the key to breaking the deadlock. It also warned of the consequences of a prolonged vacuum in the presidency.
“No one can downplay the significance and sensitivity of the presidential vacancy. A state without a president is an incomplete state and we must elect a president as soon as possible,” Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan, a Hezbollah official, told a vocational training event in the eastern city of Baalbek.
“We extend our hands to everyone in order to shorten the period of the presidential vacancy,” he said.
“There is only one way to facilitate holding the election and that is an understanding.”
He added: “the work of state institutions must go on as not to add to the suffering of citizens and to limit the damage of the presidential void.”
Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah said that all political parties should work together to hold the presidential election “as soon as possible.”
“We want the presidential election to be held as soon as possible and this requires the cooperation among all political forces,” he said.
Speaking at a medical conference in the southern town of Bint Jbeil, Fadlallah said the prolongation of the presidential vacuum would make Lebanon “a permanent emergency case.”
A senior Hezbollah official implicitly indicated for the first time that Aoun was the party’s candidate for the country’s top Christian post.
“Our stance is clear and settled toward our presidential candidate. Let everyone know that no pressures or intimidation can change our presidential stance,” Sheikh Nabil Qaouk, deputy head of Hezbollah’s Executive Council, told a ceremony in the southern village of Rom in the Jezzine province.
“Our presidential candidate is obvious, and they know him without us naming him, that’s what clearness is.”
Although Aoun is viewed as the March 8 coalition’s undeclared candidate for the presidency, the FPM leader himself has not officially announced his candidacy.
Meanwhile, MP Alain Aoun from the FPM said the parliamentary polls scheduled for November should be held on time even if based on the 1960 electoral law, rejecting a second extension of Parliament’s mandate.
“The priority is, of course, for holding a presidential election, but if the [presidential election] is scuttled, we must hold parliamentary polls,” Aoun said in an interview published in Al-Liwaa daily Monday.
“If we are not able to issue a new electoral law, we do not mind holding the elections based on the 1960 law so that we can produce a new Parliament that can elect a president,” he said. “We reject extending Parliament’s term.”
Lawmakers last year extended Parliament’s mandate by 17 months after failing to endorse a new electoral law.