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Hopes dim for timely Lebanon gov't as French deadline looms

By AFP - Sep 14,2020 - Last updated at Sep 14,2020

Lebanese protesters scuffle with security forces during a demonstration against the lack of progress in a probe by authorities into a monster blast that ravaged swathes of the capital 40 days ago, near the presidential palace in Baabda, east of the capital Beirut, on Saturday (AFP photo)

BEIRUT — Lebanon's prime minister-designate on Monday updated President Michel Aoun on talks on forming a new government, but did not submit proposals for a Cabinet despite a looming French-imposed deadline.

Premier-in-waiting Mustapha Adib "did not present a line-up" during Monday's meeting at the presidential palace, said a source at the president's office.

"Developments over the past two days necessitated more negotiations," the same source said, adding that Aoun and Adib would meet again when consultations were completed.

That dimmed hopes for a new Cabinet by a mid-September deadline announced by French President Emmanuel Macron during his second visit to Lebanon since an August 4 explosion ripped through the capital, killing more than 190 people.

Macron said on September 1 that Lebanese leaders had promised to form a new government within two weeks.

Adib, who was designated premier just hours before the start of Macron's latest visit, kicked off consultations to form a new government the next day.

But the little-known former diplomat, who has received backing from most of the country's main political parties, has kept silent on the progress of talks.

Government formation usually takes months in Lebanon, a multiconfessional country constantly gripped by political deadlock because of a power-sharing arrangement that requires consensus from major parties on major decisions.

Macron and other world leaders have urged officials to form a new Cabinet in record time to kick-start reforms and help lift the disaster-hit country out of its worst economic crisis in decades.

But the process has been hit by a series of snags.

Speaker of parliament Nabih Berri said on Sunday that his Amal Movement would not take part in the government because he opposed Adib’s approach to forming a Cabinet.

The Lebanese newspaper Annahar reported Friday that the speaker did not want to relinquish control of the finance ministry, which has been headed by an Amal movement representative since 2014.

It said Adib had proposed to create a ministerial rotation between top parties instead of reserving posts.

Gebran Bassil, the president’s son-in-law and the head of the Free Patriotic Movement that Aoun founded, also said that his party would not take part in the new cabinet.

In a press conference, Bassil said that “internal and external” forces were trying to thwart government formation, criticising Adib for trying to impose a line-up without broader political approval.

The FPM, the Amal Movement and the powerful Hizbollah are part of an alliance that commands a majority in the outgoing Cabinet and parliament.

Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar said Monday that objections by Amal and its Hizbollah allies could obstruct a settlement.

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