BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati, who has been tasked with forming a new Lebanese government at the end of his non-binding parliamentary consultations on Tuesday, said that he “went over the opinions of the MPs and we will take most of what they said into consideration, but what matters is that national interest prevails.”
Mikati said that the opinions shared by the MPs “are in the national interest, even if from different angles.”
He hoped to be able to form a government “that can carry out its duty and continue what the previous government has started, especially with the IMF, the electricity plan and the file of maritime border demarcation,” hoping that things “would take shape in a proper way.”
If Mikati succeeds in forming this government, it will be his second government under President Michel Aoun’s term; if not, he will remain a prime minister-designate as a caretaker.
The second day of consultations saw the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gebran Bassil, issue an ambiguous position.
Bassil confirmed that “the bloc isn’t interested in participating in the new government but we didn’t meet as a bloc yet to confirm the matter.”
He opposes Mikati and the FPM did not name him in the formation of a government.
He said: “We told Mikati why we don’t agree with the government formation. There’s a real problem with the credibility of the designation and we raised the issue with him, but we overcame this problem given the country’s situation.”
Bassil said that the movement is “against any government stripped of its powers, and we emphasized that it’s important for the government to deal with important files, including the file of the governorship of the central bank.”
At the same time, Bassil denied that he had made a “demand or imposed a condition before Mikati.”
He said that “making amendments to the current government is a wrong bet,” adding: “We are against a presidential gap and we will prevent it from happening.”
Bassil’s statement was remarkable, especially when he said that “Mikati’s designation lacks credibility” but decided to turn a blind eye given the country’s situation.
The Free Patriotic Movement bloc and the Lebanese Forces bloc did not propose Mikati to form a government during the binding parliamentary consultations held by President Aoun last week.
However, a source close to Mikati pointed out that the two Christian parties do not fully represent all Christians and that some MPs with popular representation nominated Mikati.
The source said that “the FPM is insisting on having an efficient government that isn’t stripped of its powers for the purpose of implementing a political agenda, as the president’s bloc wants to appoint people affiliated with the party to critical positions before the end of the term, including appointing a new governor for the central bank.”
Head of the Kataeb party Samy Gemayel warned against “the danger of adopting a no-government logic before the presidential elections.”
He believes that “wasting time in these dangerous circumstances the country is going through is deadly for the Lebanese who are suffering on all levels.”
Gemayel emphasized “the need to form an independent government as fast as possible to stop the collapse.”
After meeting with Mikati, MP Oussama Saad said that “Lebanon needs a government that can safely transport the country from the current political reality to a new reality capable of facing challenges and crises.”
He added: “The presidential elections are imminent. Can we elect a new president who is independent of the internal and external axes? Are the internal blocs controlling the state’s decision ready to carry out a rescue project?”
MP Jihad Al-Samad ruled out the possibility of forming a new government “as it is hard to form a government with the ongoing petulance and selfishness.”
He said that he demanded “that the current government be activated, either by regranting it the parliament’s confidence to revive it, or by expanding the concept of caretaking.”
MP Bilal Houshaymi said that “the decision not to participate in the government is wrong. The previous government implemented some reforms that should be completed and all blocs should cooperate to form a government. People put their trust in the parliament and we should seek to get out of the axis of hell.”
The Armenian MPs bloc expressed its interest in participating in the government. MP Hagop Pakradounian said: “A new government should be formed as soon as possible and we should avoid the game of conditions and counter-conditions. We hope that Mikati will have a governmental lineup in the coming couple of days.”
Head of the Lebanese Forces Media and Communication Department Charles Jabbour ruled out the possibility of a new government formation “because the formation of governments in Lebanon usually takes between two to three months at least, noting that the new government, if formed, will have four months to be able to assume its role.”
Regarding the position of MP Gebran Bassil, the political rival of the Lebanese Forces, Jabbour told Arab News: “The stated position is different from the implicit one. Bassil has said before that competent governments ended and a political government is what is needed. He refuses that the caretaker government remains until the end of the term because the FPM continues to hold on to appointments that are in its interest and wants to be part of the government in case of a presidential gap.”
Mikati is now working on a draft government expected to be submitted to the president so they can both sign the decree of its formation. The current ongoing prevention of its formation is being caused by the parliamentary blocs representing significant political forces that have decided not to participate in the government.
Few expect this to change. Charles Jabbour said that “the blocs that didn’t nominate Mikati to form a government and won’t participate in the government will surely not grant it confidence in the parliament.”
He added that the matter might depend on the ministerial statement but “I think that there will be a difficulty facing the formation of the new government.”