Lebanese President Michel Aoun approved on Sunday the resignation of the caretaker government, fulfilling a warning he had made in recent days.
Aoun had stirred debate when he said that the caretaker government would be deemed resigned in wake of the May parliamentary elections.
Also on Sunday, Aoun demanded that Najib Mikati be removed as prime minister-designate. He called on parliament to convene to address the issue, marking a precedent in the country.
It was his final move in office before his term ends on Monday.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that he would call the legislature to convene in the coming two days to discuss Aoun’s demand.
He added that the election of a president will be a priority in the coming stage “because vacuum is rejected.”
He also revealed that he may call on political parties to hold dialogue to address pending issues.
In a letter to parliament, Aoun called for the removal of Mikati as PM-designate, for a replacement to be appointed and the formation of a government “to avoid vacuum”.
He accused Mikati of “refraining” from forming a government when Lebanon was on the verge of presidential vacuum, leaving the country without a president and government.
The country and its people cannot tolerate vacuum in both positions due to its impact on the nation and national pact, he added.
Aoun said: “Mikati had informed us during our meetings to form a government of his lack of enthusiasm to form it for various reasons.”
Among them was his saying that the election of a president was a priority and that it would be followed with the formation of a government, he went on to say.
Moreover, Aoun said that even days before his term ended, he insisted to Mikati that a government be formed, “but he didn’t care and our calls fell on deaf ears.”
“This cemented our belief that he is unwilling to form a government and wanted to remain at the head of the caretaker one, banking on presidential vacuum to take place,” charged Aoun.
He stressed that he adamantly rejects the possibility of a caretaker government assuming the role of the president, citing Article 17 of the constitution.
The government usually assumes the duties of the president in case of a vacuum in the country’s top post.
Edge of the abyss
Aoun called on lawmakers to “immediately and without delay” elect a president or form a new government in the final two days of his term to “avoidthe edge of the abyss”.
He accused Mikati of taking the deliberate political decision to refrain from forming a government.
“He is holding back from forming a government, banking on vacuum that is lethal to our pact, identity, constitution and national security,” he continued.
Mikati “must immediately step down from forming a government, so that a replacement can be named to form a cabinet,” demanded Aoun.
Govt goes on
Mikati, for his part, stressed that the government will continue to carry out “all of its constitutional duties, including its caretaker role, in line with the constitution and other regulations.”
Parliament has held four sessions since late September to elect a president but no candidate was able to get the two-thirds majority of the vote needed.
As in previous votes, parliamentary blocs will have to agree on a consensus candidate for the country’s top post as no alliance within the legislature controls majority seats.
Aoun himself was elected in 2016 after a more than two-year vacuum. Despite Hezbollah’s support then, Aoun was only elected after he received the backing of the bloc of his main rivals of the Lebanese Forces party as well as the bloc of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
While it's not the first time that Lebanon’s parliament has failed to appoint a successor by the end of the president’s term, this will be the first time that there will be both no president and a caretaker cabinet with limited powers.
Lebanon’s constitution allows the cabinet in regular circumstances to run the government, but is unclear whether that applies to a caretaker government.