BEIRUT: Lebanon's new Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati on Tuesday held consultations with political parties that he said “unanimously” agreed on the need to put together a government quickly to rescue the crisis-hit country.
Mikati listened to lawmakers’ demands about the new government and said he wanted to form one comprising non-partisan specialists to implement a French initiative and also oversee the next parliamentary elections.
Under the French initiative, the new government would take steps to tackle corruption and implement the reforms needed to release billions of dollars of international aid.
Mikati said there were “international and American guarantees that Lebanon will not collapse” and that his government’s priority would be addressing the electricity crisis and setting up power plants.
“Lebanon is an Arab country and we do not want it to be a conduit for conspiracy against any other Arab country,” he added.
The EU stressed the need for a “credible and accountable government” to be formed in Lebanon without any delay, while a spokesperson for the French Foreign Ministry stressed the “urgent need to form a competent government” able to implement the reforms that were crucial for the country’s recovery. The spokesperson also urged Lebanese leaders to “assume their responsibility.”
It is unclear how Lebanese lawmakers will facilitate Mikati’s task and if he will face the same obstacles that stymied his predecessor Saad Hariri, who stepped down after nine months of trying to form a government.
Mikati said following the Tuesday meetings: “All parliamentary blocs and lawmakers agreed on the urgent need to form a government to restore the role of the state that has been absent for a long time, to reassure the Lebanese and make them feel like someone is there for them amid these difficult circumstances, where basic rights like access to electricity, fuel, bread and medicine have turned into demands. That is what we are seeking to provide if we manage to form a government.”
He added that he would visit President Michel Aoun “to exchange points of view and reach an agreement over the formation of a government as soon as possible.”
Lawmakers from the Lebanese Forces party on Monday told Mikati they would not join the government. But the Future Movement’s lawmakers urged him to hold tight to and protect the principles set by former prime ministers.
The parliamentary bloc of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri demanded the amendment of a current electoral law that has divided the Lebanese and increased sectarian tension.
Gebran Bassil MP, who heads the Strong Lebanon parliamentary bloc, said his party had informed Mikati of its wish “not to take part in the government and not to interfere in the formation process,” but reminded Mikati “of his belief in the idea of a full constitutional partner.”
The political disputes between Bassil and Hariri started when Aoun insisted on naming the Christian ministers in the government and Hariri was accused of breaching the president’s powers.
Hariri insisted on not granting Aoun the blocking third and considered the presidential wish to name the ministers a violation of the constitution.
The Hezbollah bloc said it required Mikati to address the matter of “naming ministers, especially those who will handle the finance, economy and education ministries.”
It demanded that these people “be field experts, and not only good in offices and with numbers.”
Mikati’s efforts to form a government come ahead of the first anniversary of a devastating explosion that rocked Beirut on Aug. 4, with politicians under pressure to break the deadlock.
The country has been under the spotlight regarding the ongoing blast investigation and the vows of Lebanese officials to hold the criminals and the corrupt accountable.
Hariri said his bloc insisted on knowing the truth about the Beirut blast and the truth about the assassination of his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
He told the press: “People have the right to know who stored the tons of ammonium nitrate at the port of Beirut, why they were seized and who was behind the explosion.”
Hariri accused some people of trying to “distort” his position over the blast by claiming that Future Movement lawmakers had “abandoned their pursuit of truth and justice” in Hariri’s assassination and were calling for the protection of ministers, lawmakers and the defendants in the blast probe.
He suggested the suspension of all constitutional and legal articles that granted immunity or special treatment to try the president, the prime minister, ministers, representatives, judges, officials and even lawyers, in order to reach the truth.