BEIRUT: The head of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), Gebran Bassil, on Sunday attacked Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, arguing that there is no trust in his ability to reform the country.
He told a group of supporters during a speech: “We do not trust Saad Hariri alone to implement reforms. We hold his political approach responsible for the (current) economic and financial policy. How can we trust the same person with the same people? He would not accept the replacement of any of them. Does he want us to blindly hand the country over to him?”
A source close to Hariri told Arab News: “This is an attempt at luring Hariri to excuse himself from the mission he has been assigned to since October”
Bassil’s statement came a few hours after the sermon of Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rai, who is trying to find a solution to the political dispute between President Michel Aoun, who is supported by the FPM, and Hariri.
Al-Rai said in his sermon: “Are portfolios, quotas and naming ministers more important to those responsible for forming the government than a cry of a mother who cannot feed her children and the pain of a father who cannot find a job to support his family?”
He added: “When I visited the president last Thursday, we affirmed the necessity of accelerating the formation of a non-political rescue government that would undertake its reform tasks and be the gateway to resolving political, economic, financial, and social crises. Don’t internal and external obstacles disappear for the sake of saving Lebanon and reviving a state of institutions? Why insist on associating this rescue with the game of nations and the conflict of axes?”
Al-Rai renewed his call for the president and Hariri to “hold a one-on-one reconciliation meeting, in which they renew the confidence required by their supreme responsibility,” adding: “They must not end the meeting without announcing a government in accordance with the text and spirit of the constitution. It is shameful to continue to disagree over this or that name, this or that portfolio, and the quotas while the state is almost completely collapsing, and we do not know in whose favor this suicide is.”
Bassil also implicitly criticized Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who wants the forensic audit to include all state institutions, not just the central bank.
Bassil said: “They make the stone bigger so that we cannot throw it. In whose custody are institutions, funds, and councils in the first place? And who robbed them? They threaten to audit the electricity file when they are the mafias of generators, diesel, and fuel. As for us, you will not find a penny linked to corruption.”
Bassil described accusations from opponents that he was obstructing the formation of the government as “a joke and ridiculousness.”
The head of the FPM also criticized the previous governments of Rafik Hariri: “Do you believe that they want a government that implements reform, carries out the forensic audit, fights corruption, returns transferred funds, recovers looted funds, and exposes the accounts of politicians and state employees? They want a government that will restore their control over the finance, economy, security, and the judiciary, as was the case before 2005.”
Are portfolios, quotas and naming ministers more important … than the pain of a father who cannot find a job to support his family?
Bechara Al-Rai, Maronite priest
He added: “They want to expel us, as they did before 2005. We have remained silent until now about the accusations and lies, but enough is enough.”
Bassil refused to allow Hariri to name the Christian ministers in the government. He said: “Are we second-class citizens?” He added that “the constitution stipulates that the president of the republic issues the government decree in agreement with the prime minister, not that the designate submits a lineup of all ministers to the president for approval.”
Bassil said that his movement “does not want to be a partner in the next government,” adding: “We will give confidence to the government if we are convinced of its composition and program and if it respects the principles of the constitution, sectarian rights accord, and representation.”
He also supported a peace with Israel, provided it is “based on justice and the restoration of rights in accordance with the initiative proposed by King Abdullah in the Beirut summit.”
The Future Movement responded to Bassil’s speech by emphasizing that “the government is ready and awaits the approval of the president to be a mission government that implements the required reforms according to the French initiative and not according to Bassil’s sectarian and racist standards.”
The Future Movement said that “political polemics will not produce a vaccine for COVID-19, restore the economy, rebuild Beirut, or provide compensation for those affected by the port explosion.”