Lebanon’s Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri underlined the importance to elect a new president who would preserve the Taif Agreement.
As Lebanon’s parliament is holding a third session this Thursday to choose a successor to President Michel Aoun, Berri told Asharq Al-Awsat that efforts to agree on a “consensual president” were not moving forward.
The speaker reiterated his specifications for the future president, which he said were “simple and clear, but essential.”
He said he wanted a president who “brings [the Lebanese] together and does not differentiate [between them], who has Islamic and Christian stature, is open to the Arab world, and most importantly preserves the Taif Agreement,” which Berri describes as “Lebanon’s unimplemented constitution.”
Regarding calls to elect a president, Berri said: “I assumed my duty and convened a voting session; I intend to call for closer sessions in case tomorrow’s (Thursday) meeting fails.”
Meanwhile, efforts intensified to expedite the formation of a government with full powers that would inherit the expected “constitutional vacuum” after the end of Aoun’s term.
Informed sources said that Hezbollah was putting pressure on Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati and head of the Free Patriotic Movement, MP Gibran Bassil, to form a government before the end of the presidential mandate on Oct. 31.
The sources added that Aoun and Bassil wanted to maintain the current government lineup, while only replacing all the Christian ministers who belong to the president’s quota. But Mikati refused the proposal, to later agree on replacing three Christian ministers, provided that he changes three other Muslim ministers from his side.
The same sources expected the new government to see light on Oct. 26 or 27. They added that the vote of confidence session would most likely be held after the expiry of Aoun’s tenure, noting that the latter would not attend the first Cabinet meeting, in contrast to customary practices.
In this context, a meeting on Wednesday brought together Bassil, the Director General of State Security, Major General Abbas Ibrahim (who leads mediation between the political leaders to form the government), and the head of Hezbollah’s Liaison and Coordination Unit, Wafiq Safa, to discuss efforts to form a government before the end of Aoun’s term.
Sources close to Bassil told Asharq Al-Awsat that Aoun “will not accept less than a change of three ministers,” nor will he agree on replacing the current Energy minister, Walid Fayyad, who is not on good terms with Mikati.
The ministers to be replaced reportedly include Foreign Minister Abdullah Bouhabib, Minister of State for Administrative Development Najla Riachy, and Minister of Tourism Walid Nassar.
The sources put the ball in Mikati’s court, saying: “Will he accept Aoun’s era to end without a government? Is he convinced that the FPM will let him rule with a resigned government that will take over the powers of the president?”
“Mikati will not be able to do that,” they said, adding that the Christian ministers would not remain in the cabinet in this case, which would put the government’s constitutionality at stake.