Lebanon News

Lebanon 'going to hell' if govt not formed: Aoun

President Michel Aoun gives a televised news conference from the Baabda Presidential Palace addressing the government formation impasse, Sept. 21, 2020. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)

BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun said Monday Lebanon is “going to hell” if a new government is not formed, as he called for the abolishment of the sectarian distribution for sovereign ministries.

"We're going to hell," Aoun said, in response to a question on what would happen if the new government isn't formed, during a televised news conference that addressed the impasse of the Cabinet formation process.

“I propose to ... abolish the distribution for ministries that are named as sovereign and not to allocate them for specific sects,” Aoun said, adding that the Lebanese constitution does not allocate any ministerial portfolios to any specific sects or groups.

In fact the Lebanese Constitution calls for the abolishment of the sectarian political system in Lebanon, and the confessional distribution of power in the country is based on a gentleman's agreement and is not in writing.

Aoun said that the sovereign ministries - Finance, Interior, Foreign and Defense - should be available to all sects, not just the major groups, and that the ability to achieve results, not sectarian affiliation should be the criterion to choose ministers.

His statement comes as the country’s leading Shiite parties the Amal Movement and Hezbollah refuse to let go of the Finance Ministry and their power to name all Shiite ministers in the upcoming Cabinet.

Their decision has paralyzed the government formation process, five weeks after the previous government resigned.

Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib has stated that he is aiming to form a government where the sovereign portfolios are rotated among the large sectarian groups, a call backed by the country's leading Sunni and Christian parties, in addition to Aoun.

Monday, he called on leading political forces to swiftly facilitate the formation of the new government, warning that more delays “will exacerbate the crisis and will deepen it and will push people toward more poverty and the country toward more deficits.”

“[I] hope everyone will work for the success of the French initiative immediately without delay,” Adib said in a series of tweets, adding that the formation of the new government will open up the road to rescue before Lebanon.

Adib was appointed under immense French pressure, hours before French President Emmanuel Macron made his second visit to Beirut on Sept. 1, which is when Lebanese politicians promised a new government would be formed within 15 days.

The designation of a new prime minister and the formation of a “mission government” were only the first steps of Macron’s initiative for Lebanon to set the country on a path of reforms in order to rise from its crises.

However no Cabinet was formed as the deadline passed, due to Shiite insistence on holding their grip on the Finance Ministry which has been headed by a Shiite for the past six years.

Parliament Speaker and Amal leader Nabih Berri stated last week that it is a “norm” for a Shiite to hold the Finance Ministry, a statement that immediately received backlash and was rejected by the country’s leading parties and figures.

Both Sunni and Maronite ministers have held the Finance Ministry since the Taif Accord in 1990.

Aoun said that parliamentary blocs cannot be excluded from the formation process because they are the ones who will give criterion to the new government.

Adib has refused to consult with heads of parliamentary blocs on the Cabinet formation, but Aoun held discussions with them last week.

As a caretaker government remains in power with no breakthroughs in the formation talks, Lebanon further descends into a state of desperation and chaos, as it faces its worst economic crisis in decades, the aftermath of a deadly explosion at its main port and soaring poverty levels, in addition to surging coronavirus cases.

“We proposed logical and middle-ground solutions but they were not accepted by the two parties, referring back to constitutional texts and respecting it remains the solution where there is no victor nor a loser,” Aoun said, referring to the Shiite duo Amal and Hezbollah.

Adib also said earlier that he “did not spare any efforts to form the mission government with President Michel Aoun.”

Aoun in his speech addressed the duo again saying that “hardening positions will not lead to any result except for the exacerbation [of the situation], at a time when Lebanon, in the midst of it successive crises, needs solutions and solidarity so it can rise and face its problems.”

The Shiite duo however did not budge from their stance of retaining the Finance Ministry after Aoun’s speech Monday, a senior political source told The Daily Star.

Asked if there is hope that the new government will be formed, Aoun said that there could be a “miracle.”

 

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