‘Tyranny’ warning as Lebanon’s political row escalates

‘Tyranny’ warning as Lebanon’s political row escalates
A police officer wearing a face mask talks with a driver at a checkpoint, as Lebanon announced a full lockdown for three weeks to stem a rise in coronavirus infections, in Marjayoun, southern Lebanon. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 08 January 2021

‘Tyranny’ warning as Lebanon’s political row escalates

‘Tyranny’ warning as Lebanon’s political row escalates
  • As a nationwide 25-day lockdown entered its second day, politicians exchanged accusations over delays in the naming of a Cabinet
  • Hospitals in the country are struggling to cope with the influx of cases

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s politicians swapped insults and accusations on Friday while coronavirus infections in the country continued to rise dramatically, with almost 5,000 cases reported in a single day.
Journalists, artists, doctors, nurses, soldiers and teachers — some in their 20s and 30s — were among those falling victim to the virus, while hospitals struggled to cope with the influx of cases and health officials warned of a growing crisis.
On Thursday night, former minister Nicolas Nahas appeared on TV after recovering from the illness. “The last two months have been very difficult. I lost the ability to breathe,” he said.
As a nationwide 25-day lockdown entered its second day, politicians exchanged accusations over delays in the naming of a Cabinet, escalating the conflict between President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri over conditions imposed by the president.
MP Waleed Al-Baarini, a member of the Future Movement, accused Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement of “tyranny and adopting a scorched earth policy.”
Lebanon “does not need another trigger to destroy it,” he said.
On Friday, the political conflict went beyond the Cabinet line-up to include the issue of parliamentary rights.
Aoun told members of the Constitutional Council that the body should not be limited to monitoring laws, but should also interpret the constitution in accordance with reforms agreed under the 1989 Taif accord.
The president’s comments angered many MPs, including former PM Najib Mikati and parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri, who said: “The role of the council is limited to monitoring the constitutionality of laws. Interpreting the constitution is the sole right of the parliament.”
Marwan Hamadeh, who resigned as an MP, described Aoun’s remarks as a breach of the constitution and an attempt to abolish its rights.
“This takes us back to the Lebanese civil war,” he said.
However, Khaled Qabbani, an authority on the country’s constitution and former member the Constitutional Council, told Arab News that “the Taif agreement gave (the council) the right to interpret the constitution, along with the right to the monitor the constitutionality of laws and the parliamentary elections.”
Qabbani said that he had been assigned to write the constitutional text of amendments approved by the accord.
“However, when the parliament convened one year later to approve these amendments, Georges Saade (the late Christian Phalange party leader) did not agree to give this right to the Constitutional Council, and his view was supported by all other MPs. All the amendments were approved except this one.”
Qabbani said that he was surprised “that this matter is being discussed again, especially at this time, when the constitution in Lebanon is not being respected, and the parliament has become very sensitive to all topics related to its rights and powers.”
“Such a mistake is not acceptable,” he said.
In a televised interview on Thursday night, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt called on Hariri to step down from the task of forming a government, and to “leave Hezbollah and its allies to rule the country, since we have become a missile silo.”
“We are not able to rule. Let the resistance camp handle the responsibility of the country in times of peace, war and economic collapse,” he said.
He urged Hezbollah “to think about the tens of thousands of Lebanese in the Gulf countries in order to avoid their deportation, since they have become our only hope amid the economic crisis.”