Ghinwa Obeid – The Daily Star
The Future Movement and Free Patriotic Movement Tuesday resumed a war of words over the performance of the outgoing Cabinet as the process of forming a new government appeared deadlocked. FPM head Gebran Bassil accused caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri of not carrying out his duties in a caretaker capacity after Hariri said the outgoing government continued to work and that he was personally fulfilling his duties.
Hariri’s response came amid criticism that the caretaker government was not taking action over urgent matters, which was negatively impacting the country facing an unprecedented economic crisis.
Hariri resigned as premier on Oct. 29, shortly after nationwide anti-government protests broke out.
“Since I submitted my resignation, I have been assuming my responsibilities as caretaker [PM]. I am surprised by the talk about the caretaker government because I do not see anything stalled at this level,” Hariri told reporters from his Downtown Beirut residence shortly after returning to Beirut from a two-week family holiday.
He added that it was not clear for him where he had “failed” in his job as a caretaker premier.
Hariri stopped in Oman Tuesday before Beirut, where he offered condolences for Sultan Qaboos’ death.
“We are using our jurisdictions within what is acceptable, but there are some things that cannot be passed when there is an outgoing Cabinet,” Hariri said. “Imagine if I talk to the World Bank and agree on something. Can I implement this agreement with a caretaker government? No, I cannot. A government that has the confidence of Parliament, and works normally, can.”
Turning to the government formation crisis, Hariri said Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab should focus on forming his new government with the parties that nominated him for the job.
“I am with the formation of a new government, not with reviving a government that resigned at the request of the street,” Hariri said.
Upon his arrival, Hariri headed a meeting of the Future Movement parliamentary bloc, which criticized the delay in government formation, saying the political bickering and the squabbling over political spoils in the new Cabinet reflected “the denial toward the economic and financial dangers.”
“The bloc is surprised by the inability of the parliamentary blocs that named Diab to agree on a ministerial formation that would end the stalemate,” the bloc’s statement said. “In the light of the state of confusion surrounding the Cabinet formation, the bloc places full responsibility on the president, [Michel Aoun]; and the prime minister-designate, who are constitutionally involved in the [formation process].”
Bassil, on the other hand, called on Hariri to perform his duties.
“The biggest danger is that we are living in a situation where the caretaker government’s head and some of its ministers are not carrying out their duties and work is being obstructed,” he said during a news conference that came after Hariri’s comments. “This does not mean that we should revive the caretaker government … but it has duties and it should take decisions to resolve the financial situation.”
It had been expected that Bassil was going to announce that the FPM would not participate in the upcoming government. Nevertheless, he appeared hopeful of giving Diab a chance to make the formation work.
Bassil’s position came after he met with Speaker Nabih Berri.
“The prime minister-designate should form a government that can gain the trust of the angry people and the Parliament,” Bassil was quoted as saying.
“For our part, we will give [Diab’s] government [a vote of confidence] if it … focuses on an economic financial plan that lifts us from the current situation.” Separately, Aoun said the new government was supposed to be formed last week. “But some obstacles have prevented it; and although we do not have the luxury of delay, the formation of this government requires the selection of qualified candidates, worthy of the confidence of both the people and Parliament, which in turn requires time,” Aoun said
“We will continue to exert all possible efforts to form the promised government,” Aoun was quoted as saying during a meeting at Baabda Palace.