Lebanese Christian politician Gebran Bassil criticised Sunni former Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Tuesday for putting himself forward to lead a government that would champion a French initiative to resolve the country’s deep economic crisis.
Earlier on Monday, Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt used even harsher words to criticise Hariri.
Hariri has begun consultations with the president, parliament speaker and political blocs about forming a government that would implement French President Emmanuel Macron’s roadmap for reforms and unlock international aid.
He has said his mission is to form a six-month technocratic government to rapidly carry out the reform plan set out in Macron’s initiative.
“We were not aware, and nobody informed us, that President Macron had appointed a high commissioner… to Lebanon, and made a prefect for us to oversee his initiative and the extent of its implementation,” Bassil said in a speech to supporters.
“Whoever wants to head a government of technocrats has to be a technocrat himself,” said Bassil, who heads Lebanon’s biggest Christian bloc, the Free Patriotic Movement. A former foreign minister, Bassil is also President Michel Aoun’s son-in-law.
Earlier on Monday, Jumblatt also criticised Hariri during a live TV interview.
“This is a self-nomination,” Jumblatt told local television network Al Jadeed, accusing Hariri of behaving like French monarch Louis XIV who famously said: “I am the state.”
Jumblatt, a close ally of Hariri despite several falling-outs over the past years, said that the former premier’s announcement naming himself as a candidate to lead the government was a violation of the Lebanese constitution.
“According to the constitution, if there still is a constitution, parliamentary blocs go to [the Presidential Palace] Baabda and choose” a new prime minister, Jumblatt said, adding only “then, depending on the votes, there is a nomination.”
The Druze leader said that his party, the Progressive Socialist Party, would refuse to meet Hariri’s representatives ahead of consultations between political parties and Aoun set to begin on Thursday.
“He named himself and there is no need for us to go to Baabda, and it is possible that a deal will be struck with [Free Patriotic Movement head Gebran] Bassil and the Shia duo [Hezbollah and the Amal Movement],” said Jumblatt, quoted by local newspaper The Daily Star.
Aoun will hold formal consultations on Thursday about nominating a prime minister to form a new government to replace Hassan Diab’s cabinet, which resigned two months ago after a powerful explosion damaged much of Beirut and killed 200 people.
Diab’s nominated replacement has been unable to form a government after the powerful Shia group Hezbollah and its political allies insisted on nominating the finance minister.
Lebanon is suffering its worst financial collapse since a 1975-1990 civil war. Foreign donors have made clear there will be no fresh aid unless Lebanese leaders launch reforms to tackle graft and improve governance, and engage in IMF negotiations.
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