Lebanese President Michel Aoun postponed consultative talks to form a new government until October 22, the official National News Agency (NAA) reported Wednesday.
Aoun was scheduled to hold binding consultations with members of parliament on Thursday in an effort to push Lebanon’s fractious political class to move on forming the country’s next government.
Recent efforts faltered amid bickering over cabinet posts among the country’s various political factions, dealing a blow to a French plan to rally politicians to tackle the country’s woes.
Taking the decision in line with the demands of some political groups in order to resolve some difficulties, Aoun postponed the talks with parliamentary blocs for a week, NAA’s report said.
The government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned last month after a massive explosion rocked Beirut’s port on August 4.
The blast, which shook Lebanon to its core and caused massive destruction in the capital, came at a time when the country was reeling from a crippling economic crisis made worse by the coronavirus pandemic
Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib resigned in late September following a disagreement on the shape of the government, a month after he was chosen to form a new cabinet.
Last week, Diab said it was incumbent upon the country’s feuding sectarian political leaders to revive the French roadmap and form a government swiftly because the country “cannot wait another two months.”
A top candidate for the post was former Prime Minister Saad Hariri. He resigned in October last year, days after nationwide protests broke out demanding an end to the rule of the political class that has brought the country to the verge of bankruptcy.
On Wednesday, Hariri failed to win the backing of the two largest Christian blocs in parliament.
Head of Lebanon’s biggest Christian bloc, the Free Patriotic Movement, Gebran Bassil criticised 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 said his mission would be 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. 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.
“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.
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