BEIRUT — The head of the Free Patriotic Movement Gebran Bassil said on Tuesday that if the outgoing government of Najib Mikati assumes the duties of head of state after the end of Michel Aoun's six-year term, he would consider it a cabinet "that usurps power." Talks on the establishment of the new cabinet have been superseded in recent weeks by a debate on whether the outgoing government of Najib Mikati could assume the duties of the head of state, as the end of the presidential term approaches on Oct. 31.
In a speech after an FPM parliamentary group meeting in Sin al-Fil, Bassil also attacked the leader of the Lebanese Forces Samir Geagea, who had verbally attacked him in a speech on Sunday evening.
"A few days ago, the Prime Minister said that each day without a government costs 25 million dollars. Why then move at a snail's pace and knowingly take his time while waiting for the end of President Aoun's term of office?" asked Bassil. "He has already announced his intention to certain ministers and yesterday he stated it clearly: he is ready to assume the prerogatives of the president in case of vacancy. But we have already said it time and again, a government that does not have the confidence of the new Parliament and does not have full powers cannot meet and exercise additional prerogatives, including those of the head of state," he added. "We had said that this may cause constitutional chaos, but they responded with a confessional speech. The vacuum cannot fill the vacuum and constitutional chaos justifies another constitutional chaos," he said. "We will not recognize the legitimacy of the resigning government after the end of the presidential term. We will consider that it usurps power and has lost its legitimacy, even if the whole world recognized such a cabinet," he warned.
On Monday evening, Mikati said that "in case of presidential vacancy, the prerogatives of the head of state are transferred to the current outgoing government," a position fiercely opposed by President Aoun and his camp. This position of Baabda and the FPM is seen by many observers as a pretext for the Head of State to hold on to his office after his term is over. The current government has been considered as a caretaker cabinet since May 22, following the parliamentary elections, and Najib Mikati was reappointed in late June. The Prime Minister-designate has repeatedly accused Gebran Bassil of blocking discussions on the composition of the future ministerial team.
Response to Geagea
Responding to a statement by Samir Geagea on Sunday that history will forget Michel Aoun at the end of his term, Bassil retorted that "to be able to talk about history, you must not be a killer of children, prime ministers, za'ims, clerics, you must not be a collaborator who receives money from abroad," in reference to the accusations made against Geagea during Lebanon's 15-year civil war. He also said that Geagea "does not know how many members he has in his parliamentary group," while the two leaders claim to have the largest bloc with their various allies.
The inaction of Lebanese judges
Bassil also reiterated his call for the removal of the Governor of Banque du Liban Riad Salameh. "Why is no one calling for this with us," he said indignantly, estimating that BDL governor has "put half of the country's politicians, journalists and judges in his pocket." "Nobody talks about him because everyone is taking bribes," he accused. "However, he cannot buy the European judges, who are discovering every day frightening facts and figures" in Salameh's foreign accounts, Bassil added. He also said that these judges send their files to Lebanon where "the Lebanese judges just contemplate them without doing anything."
The former head of diplomacy has in this context criticized the Lebanese judges for their strike movement. "They must of course claim their rights, we understand it, but they cannot suspend the follow-up of the files," he added. He also asked that the case of the double explosion at the port of Beirut be treated as a priority, denouncing the arrest "unjust and arbitrary, even kidnapping" of people detained in this case for two years, "who were only doing their job." Among the detainees is the former director of Customs Badri Daher, close to the FPM and Aoun. "The Supreme Council of the Judiciary, its president and some of its members are responsible for the blockage of justice" and these detentions, he accused, saying he was ready to resort to a "non-Lebanese" justice if the local justice remains blocked.
More than two years after Aug. 4, 2020, the investigation of this case has been suspended due to the numerous requests for the dismissal of the judge in charge, Tarek Bitar, by senior politicians who have been summoned for questioning or are being prosecuted. Those under arrest in the case remain in detention, having not yet received a trial, including customs and port officials, such as former customs director Badri Daher.