BEIRUT — Lebanese President Michel Aoun said Tuesday that he will work to "form a government with full powers" able to assume the duties of the president after October 31, the date of the end of his term, if his successor is not elected within the constitutional deadline, the state-run National News Agency reported.
During a meeting with a delegation of ambassadors from the European Union, Aoun said that he "is working for the formation of a government with full powers, capable of exercising the prerogatives of the president in case of presidential vacancy after October 31." He also said that it is "difficult to manage a three-headed state."
"That's why we see this constitutional chaos given the existence of a cabinet in charge of expediting affairs and a Parliament recently elected but composed [of deputies] of various affiliations," he added. "Lebanon needs today political and sovereign reforms, in addition to structural changes in its system which still need to be reformed and enforced," Aoun said.
Governmental negotiations have been delayed since May after the current cabinet entered caretaker mode following the 2022 parliamentary elections. Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati promised last Thursday to meet again with the head of state after his return from a trip abroad planned for several days.
"I will not leave the palace until I have formed a government," Mikati said, while his ministerial team has been managing affairs since May 22. Several observers fear that Aoun wants to remain in the Baabda Palace after his term is over, on the pretext that. according to Aoun, a caretaker cabinet cannot exercise the prerogatives of the president. Recently, Aoun told Lebanese daily news outlet al-Akhbar that he "will leave Baabda if the situation is normal and nobody means any ill will."
For her part, French Ambassador to Lebanon, Anne Grillo on Tuesday stressed the "need for the existence of a cabinet with full powers and one that respects constitutional deadlines, including the presidential deadline." She also warned against "the accentuation of crises and divisions in the country if the deadlines are not respected."
Head of the European Union's diplomatic mission in Lebanon, Ralph Tarraf, expressed for his part great concern about the situation in Lebanon, stressing the importance that Aoun should "do everything possible to implement the reforms requested by the International Monetary Fund" with which Lebanon signed a preliminary agreement last April.
"Obstacles" to the investigation
President Aoun also pointed out "the obstacles to the investigation into the Beirut port explosion and the investigation into the involvement of the Bank du Liban (BDL) in the management of the currency crisis."
Caretaker Justice Minister Henri Khoury recently called for the appointment of an alternative judge to the port blast investigation in case of emergency as the investigation is currently suspended due to the many requests to remove the head of the investigation judge Tarek Bitar, in charge of this case, by political officials and elected representatives who themselves have been summoned for investigation. Khoury proposed to the Higher Judicial Council the name of Samaranda Nassar, the first investigating judge of North Lebanon, who is reputed to be close to the Aoun camp, for this substitute function, a judicial source told L'Orient-Le Jour.
Aoun also recalled that the financial audit of the BDL, which he has been demanding, is continuing in the hope that a first report will be published "at the end of September." Aoun has constantly made statements against BDL governor Riad Salameh.