Hariri and Aoun still at odds about cabinet formation

Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri said on Saturday that he will not form a cabinet that simply caters to President Michel Aoun’s wishes.

Hariri was appointed in October to form a government following caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s resignation in August. Seven months since his appointment, Hariri has yet to submit a cabinet proposal that Aoun can agree with.

“I will not form a government as the team of his Excellency the President wants, nor any other political faction,” Hariri told Parliament on Saturday.

Aoun had sent in a letter of complaint to Parliament regarding Hariri’s inability to form a “government capable of salvation and meaningful contact with foreign financial institutions, international funds and donor countries.”

Hariri took the letter to mean Aoun’s withdrawal of his nomination for the position. He also accused Aoun of an attempt to absolve himself of the blame for the cabinet deadlock, a political attack as a result of his refusal to yield to his requests over the new cabinet formation, and attempting to alter the constitution.

“The President is violating the constitution by insisting on granting the government his own confidence and he should let parliament vote on confidence,” Hariri said at the parliament session on Saturday, which was dedicated to discussing Aoun’s letter.

President Aoun’s letter, which was read out the day before, openly complained that Hariri’s government is incapable of forming a government that could save the country in its times of crises.

The formation of a cabinet has been the prerequisite for the reception of foreign financial aid and international funds by several organizations and donor countries.

PM Gebran Bassil, Aoun’s son-in-law and leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, said Aoun’s intention is not to remove Hariri from the position.

Parliament speaker and leader of the Amal movement Nabih Berri urged Hariri to coordinate with Aoun and form a government in order to help maintain stability and security within the country.

Berri, who has held his position since 1992, also said that parliament would “uphold Saad Hariri’s designation.”

Hariri maintained that he will not select a government to simply please Aoun’s wishes, stating that “I will only form the kind of government needed to stop collapse and prevent the big crash that is threatening the Lebanese.”

Lebanon is already amidst the worst economic and financial crisis in recent history, as the pound further deprecates, unemployment remains at an all-time high of 40 percent, and 50 percent of the population sinks below the poverty line.

The delay in the formation of a cabinet is further agitating international organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund, demanding the cabinet’s formation for provision of a financial bailout.