BEIRUT — Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Wednesday that the “election of a new president will not happen easily,” adding that an international conference might be necessary in case “governmental and presidential hindrances” occur after the May 15 parliamentary elections. The premier’s remarks came during an interview with local media outlet TeleLiban.
Here’s what we know:
• “Many things must be resolved,” Mikati said, explaining the difficulty of electing a new head of state, noting that the failure to do so within the constitutionally specified timeframe would amount to “a great crime.” Between potential presidential candidates Gebran Bassil and Sleiman Frangieh, the prime minister expressed a preference for Frangieh, with whom he said he has “a solid relationship.” Mikati added that he has a “very good relationship with President Michel Aoun with whom he often cooperates.” Aoun’s mandate as president ends in October.
• Regarding the future of the premiership, Mikati said he will “leave the choice to the new Parliament,”' while calling for the formation of a government “as quickly as possible” after elections. He went on to warn that crises in government formation or presidential elections would require an international conference “more important than the Doha conference, but not as significant as the Taif.” The Doha agreement ended an 18-month-long political crisis in which the country was left in a presidential vacuum while the Taif agreement marked the end of the country’s 15-year Civil War.
• Mikati also called for “massive participation” in the upcoming parliamentary elections and for the Lebanese people “to voice their opinions at the ballots.” He also reported “violations” in the context of the elections, ensuring however “to work for the holding of the ballot in Lebanon and abroad according to the limited financial means.”
• Speaking on the economic crisis, Mikati said that he “no longer opposes” the replacement of Banque du Liban Governor Riad Salameh, who is under investigation in a number of local and international lawsuits, after the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund are complete, calling on the Finance Minister to send a list of possible successors. In late 2021, Mikati renounced calls for Salameh’s replacement saying that “one does not change officers during a war.”
• In reference to the controversial capital control law, Mikati said, “The rights of small depositors are preserved thanks to the recovery plan. This concerns 86 percent of depositors. We are working to protect the remaining 14 percent.”
• Mikati estimated “$20 billion in losses on subsidies from which Lebanon did not benefit.” BDL has subsidized a number of basic goods including fuel as three quarters of the country’s population falls under the poverty line. Nonetheless, the measure has been linked with stockpiling and smuggling.
• “The government does not have much time. We are facing challenges in different areas,” Mikati said as the country faces the worst socio-economic and financial crisis in its contemporary history. “Lebanon’s economy is suffering from a disease and we have unfortunately lost many of the chances we had,” he added. However, Mikati found that the “seal” of the IMF, with which Lebanon has signed a preliminary agreement aimed at helping it out of its crisis, constitutes a green light to donor countries ready to help Lebanon.