Lebanon News

Unified criteria can usher in govt soon: Bassil

Maronite Patriarch Beshara Boutros Rai speaks after a meeting with President Michel Aoun at the Baabda Palace, Dec. 18, 2020. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)

BEIRUT: Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil Friday said a government could be formed very soon if unified criteria were adopted, as the government formation process remained stalled.

“The government formation process will end in a very short time ... as soon as unified criteria are adopted,” Bassil said after he met with Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rai in Bkirki.

Bassil said that he and Rai had agreed on the concept of adopting a unified approach to the formation of the Cabinet and that it should be formed quickly.

“We agreed that the government should be one that is able to enact reforms,” he added.

The FPM leader and former foreign minister said his party had not set any conditions or demands regarding the Cabinet formation.

In contrast to his statement, Bassil has been accused by Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri of being the main obstructor of the Cabinet formation process, as President Michel Aoun during his 12 meetings with Hariri on the formation has reportedly stated that he would name all Christian ministers and that his camp receive the veto power.

Rai has recently been trying to bring together the main parties in the government formation process after it was deadlocked once again and as Lebanon, on the brink of collapse, faces a multitude of existential crises.

Bassil’s meeting with Rai comes after Hariri also visited him Wednesday night to discuss the government issue.

Rai was also at Baabda Presidential Palace Friday morning, to discuss the stalled government formation process with Aoun.

“The government is an executive power and it is unacceptable for the country under these circumstances to stay with a caretaker government,” he said after the meeting.

Rai also said he has asked Hariri for the reasons for the delay in the Cabinet formation.

“I had hoped to celebrate the New Year with a new government because the country can no longer endure this [situation],” Rai added.

He stressed that it was necessary for the president and prime minister-designate to reach an understanding and form a government in line with the Constitution, whatever the circumstances may be, because “a new government is a gateway to reforms.”

Lebanon has been in a political vacuum since the government resigned on Aug. 10 in the aftermath of the Beirut Port blast. Since then French President Emmanuel Macron has taken a leading role in trying to rescue Lebanon from plunging into deeper and even irreversible crises.

The French president was set to make his third official visit to Lebanon in four months on Dec. 22, the first being in August after the blast and the second in September. With previous French efforts, international humiliation and harsh criticism left Lebanese leaders unperturbed as they haggled over seats and shares in the new, desperately needed government, Macron's third visit was seen as a last chance and a glimmer of hope to shake the frozen Cabinet formation process.

However, the French president tested positive for coronavirus Thursday, less than a week before his scheduled arrival to the crisis-stricken country, and his trip was subsequently cancelled, further dashing hopes for a speedy formation.

The initiative Macron unveiled in the fall aimed to set Lebanon on a path to recovery after the creation of a "mission" government that would enact reforms to unlock crucial international financial assistance and negotiate a bailout program with the International Monetary Fund.

 

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