BEIRUT: Binding parliamentary consultations to appoint a new Prime Minister have been set for next Monday, as Lebanon nears closure to forming a new government.
Lebanon has been without a fully functioning government since Prime Minister Saad Hariri submitted his resignation on October 29.
President Michel Aoun had yet to set a date for consultations, fearing a political deadlock that would delay the formation of the new Cabinet. The delay, which will enter 40 days before Monday, is unprecedented in recent history. The last government was formed after nine months of tug and pull between the different political parties.
On Wednesday, Aoun was sharply criticized by Lebanon's three former premiers, who accused him of violating the constitution and Taef accord.
Former premiers Tammam Salam, Najib Mikati and Fouad Siniora had castigated Aoun for “violations of the prime minister’s prerogatives ... by naming possible premiers before the binding parliamentary consultations take place."
"This is what President Aoun and [caretaker Foreign] Minister Gebran Bassil did," they said.
In response, Aoun's office issued a statement arguing that the delay was aimed at “ensuring wide support for the prime minister-designate, which facilitates the government formation for him.”
The three premiers called Aoun's actions a violation that is unprecedented in both the pre- and post-Taif eras and a crime against the Lebanese people’s unity and the Constitution.
Lebanon's constitution affords the President an undetermined timeframe to set parliamentary consultation and the same authority for the Prime MInster-designate to form the government.
The front runner for the job, as things currently stand, is Samir Khatib, who heads one of Lebanon’s largest engineering and contracting companies and did not hold any political roles in the past.
Hariri had already backed Khatib late last week. Despite the backing, the other three premiers have criticized the move, labeling his involvement as a violation of the constitution.
“Any candidate who agrees on entering consultations over the shape and the members of the new government before being [officially] tasked with the formation ... is contributing to violating the Constitution," they said.
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