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“We will not accept in any way that the incompetent [Prime Minister Najib] Mikati government assumes the powers of the president,” Free Patriotic Movement head Gebran Bassil said yesterday, the first day of the presidential race. Bassil told Arabic daily Al Akhbar his party supports a presidential candidate “around whom there would be an agreement” while criticizing the – deliberately contentious, according to the FPM leader – premier-designate’s government proposal that asks for the replacement of three ministers “close to the presidential camp.” The prime minister denied Bassil’s allegations claiming in a statement reported by local media that the speed with which he submitted a government proposal shows his dedication to the task. Mikati submitted a cabinet roster to Aoun on June 29, less than a week after Parliament designated him prime minister on June 23, a position he had already been occupying in a caretaker capacity since May 22. The monthslong delay in cabinet formation sparked fears of presidential and governmental vacuum, with Bassil finding the former “a possible option [that] must not happen.” Aoun had told the same news outlet that he intends to vacate the presidential palace at the end of his mandate, leaving room for his successor while “refusing a power vacuum.” The constitutional timeframe to elect the new president starts today and its deadline is on Oct. 31. Yesterday’s comments are the latest in the heated exchange of statements between Bassil and Mikati, with the president calling on the prime minister after a series of fruitless meetings to expedite cabinet formation given the reportedly limited prerogatives accorded to the caretaker government.
Deputy Parliament Speaker Elias Bou Saab announced a hiatus on the discussion of the capital control draft law after disagreements between MPs in today’s meeting echoed protesters’ dissent as they held a sit-in in front of the Parliament building and in front of several banks across Beirut. The capital control draft law aims to formalize restrictions put in place by commercial banks since the onset of the crisis in 2019, of which banks have limited depositors’ access to their funds. The law was last modified earlier this year amid protests from depositors and civil society groups who described it as a “general amnesty project for banks.” Similar claims were made by MP Ossama Saad, who claimed the law proposal grants “immunity” to banks in its current form and should be tied to a comprehensive economic recovery plan. Bou Saab added that other reform law projects were being drafted by the government. Enacting the capital control law is one of the reforms mandated to unlock an aid package from the International Monetary Fund as per an April preliminary agreement with Lebanon.
Internal Security Forces announced it had foiled an illegal migration operation in North Lebanon, arresting four alleged smugglers. The ISF stopped two alleged smugglers and two would-be passengers in the town of Minieh ahead of an illegal crossing in which 24 people who were charged $4,000 each would attempt to clandestinely emigrate to Europe. The passengers were later released and their supplies were donated to charities, the ISF said, adding that two additional alleged smugglers were caught in the Beddawi region. Last April, several dozen people who left North Lebanon in a makeshift boat died after a boat wreck. On Thursday, a submarine crew found the boat and 11 bodies.
The National Council for Scientific Research in Lebanon warned Tuesday of heightened fire danger, citing fire index maps showing high and very high fire risks in several areas. “Please be careful and do not start fires for any reason,” the CNRS cautioned, recalling Director of the Civil Defense Raymond Khattar’s claim that in Lebanon "95 percent of fires are caused by man, intentionally or otherwise" as wildfires repeatedly spawned across Lebanon this summer. Amid the country's economic crisis, firefighters and the Civil Defense are severely lacking in resources to combat fires. Illegal loggers have benefitted from the fire-damaged forests to cut down more trees, as was the case in Akkar when cars, trucks and tractors reportedly gathered to the site of a blaze in order to collect the burnt wood.
In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: “Hiba, a civil servant, has gone into ‘survival’ mode.”