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File photo of PM designate Saad Hariri at the presidential palace in Baabda

President Michel Aoun’s called on PM designate Saad Hariri to either visit him in Baabda immediately and jointly form a cabinet or leave .

Hariri tweeted that he was surprised by the president’s televised invitation and said he is ready to visit him in Baabda again for the 17th time since he was designated but made it clear to Aoun that the line up is the same that he presented before which he described as a cabinet of experts and not politicians and urged the president to approve it

Hariri also called on Aoun to spare the Lebanese more suffering by allowing early presidential elections, and challenging him to spell out why he has so far declined all Cabinets proposed by the premier-designate. 

Aoun was elected to a six-year term by parliament in 2016, after Lebanon had been nearly two years without a president. He is an ally of the Iran-backed Hezbollah group. Hariri, who has worked closely with Hezbollah before, is locked in a power struggle with Aoun’s political party and is under pressure to exclude Hezbollah from a future Cabinet. 

According to analysts Aoun is trying to secure a veto power in the new cabinet to help his son- in- law MP Gebran Bassil

 Bassil who according to analysts is the most despised and disliked politician in Lebanon reportedly wants to be the president and for this reason he is trying to force Hariri to give his FPM bloc and the president a veto power in the cabinet to pave the way for him to replace Aoun as president in 2022 . The Iranian backed Hezbollah militant group which currently controls all the branches of government in Lebanon is reportedly backing Bassil’s plan and for this reason it has done nothing to facilitate the formation of the cabinet other than talk about it

For this reason Hariri is calling on Aoun to allow early presidential election

Legally, a president cannot dismiss a premier-designate, chosen by Parliament. It is unclear what would break the stalemate. According to the constitution, the president could suggest names to the prime minister-designate, who is ultimately responsible for forming a Cabinet. 

“Shock after shock, each day brings its burdens and worries, and the concern grows because of the inability to have the simplest means for an honorable life,” Aoun said. 

Amid the political blame-trading, Lebanon’s local currency continues to crash, losing over 90% of its value since October 2019. The economic crisis has pushed nearly half the population into poverty. 

Banks have imposed informal controls on people’s savings, and the Central Bank’s foreign reserves are dwindling in a country dependent on imports of over 80% of its basic needs. Desperate and enraged, Lebanese protesters have turned to the streets to demand a way out of the crisis as prices soar and goods disappear from the market.

But public anger has not spilled into nationwide protests similar to those in 2019 even as Lebanon is being gripped by multiple crises, including a surge in coronavirus infections and pressure on the health sector. 

The outgoing government resigned last August, following a massive explosion at Beirut’s port that killed 211 people, wounded more than 6,000 and damaged entire neighborhoods in the capital.

AP/YL

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