BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi on Wednesday urged Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri to urgently form a government in collaboration with President Michel Aoun “according to the spirit of the constitution.”
Al-Rahi’s statement followed his return from the Vatican, where he took part in a prayer and gathering for Lebanon hosted by Pope Francis.
After meeting Aoun, Al-Rahi blamed Lebanon’s worsening crisis on “the absence of a government, which is ruining the economy, increasing unemployment and closing enterprises.”
Without executive authority, the country will die, he warned.
Last week at the Vatican, Al-Rahi said that “everybody is responsible for the current situation in Lebanon, including the president.”
On Wednesday, at the Presidential Palace, he reiterated that “everybody has violated the constitution.”
Two days ago, Hariri visited Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, whose initiative to form a government of 24 ministers was obstructed by Aoun’s insistence on a blocking third, or a third of all Cabinet seats, effectively giving his team veto power over government decisions.
This coincided with reports on Wednesday that Hariri intends to abandon his efforts to form the government, a mission assigned to him nine months ago by Aoun and parliament.
At that time, Hariri had agreed to form a government of 18 ministers of technocrats to implement economic, financial and administrative reforms, according to the French initiative.
On Wednesday, Arab News was told that efforts were being made to to find a replacement for Hariri in order to avoid a government vacuum.
However, the figures being considered, including former prime ministers, refused to take on the role because of past failures to reach an agreement.
MP Bilal Abdullah, a member of the Democratic Gathering bloc, told Arab News: “Renewing the talk about the intention of Hariri to end his mission is lethal for the Lebanese and the economy. It adds to the humiliation of the citizens who are trying to secure their medicines, transportation and food. What we need are serious steps to form the government without obstacles or high demands, as the president and the PM-designate are doing now.”
He said that Al-Rahi’s appeal to form the government will put pressure on Hariri to resign.
“The patriarch is the one who worked most on reconciliation between the two sides but failed. He is not a party and should work on eliminating obstacles, and not call on one side to rush in forming the government,” Abdullah said.
“If Hariri resigns, there will be repercussions, especially if he chooses to join the opposition.”
Abdullah said that any replacement for Hariri was destined to fail, adding: “We should focus on reconciliation.”
Al-Rahi called on the Lebanese to show resilience and be patient, saying that “after dark there will be daylight.”
However, Wednesday’s dawn presented another bleak picture of Lebanon.
Sheikh Hassan Merheb, imam of a mosque in Tariq El-Jdideh, posted a photo of a man praying with his oxygen device next to him.
Merheb wrote: “The man has no electricity at home, so he came to the mosque at dawn to use the power generated by the mosque’s generator. Damn all those who got us to this situation.”
Shortages of fuel and medicine as subsidies are gradually lifted from many commodities and goods are adding to the problems facing Lebanon’s hard-hit population.
Dr. Sharaf Abou Sharaf, head of the Lebanese Order of Physicians, said: “Lebanese children have started to suffer from the unavailability of vaccines. This poses a serious threat to new generations.”
Protesters in Tripoli stormed a drugs warehouse and said that they found “hundreds of medicines that are unavailable in the pharmacies.