Lebanese Parliament Speaker pushes to extend army chief's mandate
Speaker Nabih Berri revealed on Monday that he was preparing for what he called a “constitutional fatwa” that would allow the extension of the army chief's mandate if parliament failed to take action.
In remarks to several newspapers, Berri said the formula or the fatwa would pave way for the extension of Gen. Jean Qahwaji's term if the legislature failed to convene or a new government was not formed before the end of his mandate in September.
The extension draft-law is on the agenda of a three-day parliamentary session that Berri has called for on Tuesday.
But lawmakers from the March 14 alliance and the Change and Reform bloc are expected to boycott the session similar to its predecessor.
March 14 lawmakers insist on linking the extension of Qahwaji's mandate to that of Internal Security Forces chief Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi, who retired after turning 59 – the ISF’s maximum working age – on April 1.
Change and Reform MPs on the other hand refuse the extension of the term of the army commander, who turns 60 in September – the age of retirement for military chiefs.
Their boycott of a legislative session earlier this month was exacerbated by a dispute between Berri and Caretaker Premier Najib Miqati, who has claimed that the speaker is not entitled to call for a general assembly amid a resigned government.
But Berri was on Monday adamant to “keep calling for sessions” until the issue was resolved, and stressed that he wouldn't amend the agenda, which includes 45 draft-laws.
Regarding the absence of a new government and the failure of Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam so far to put together his cabinet, Berri said he was waiting for other parties to propose the names of their candidates to do so as well.
His remark came after Salam said on several occasions that he was still waiting for Berri to implement his pledges and facilitate the cabinet formation process by proposing the names of the candidates of both Hizbullah and his Amal movement.