BEIRUT — Lebanon could still finalize a deal with the International Monetary Fund for a $3 billion bailout despite having no president and no fully empowered government, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Thursday.
Beirut signed a draft agreement with the IMF in April but has been slow to implement a series of reforms required by the lender to finalize the deal, which is seen as key to exiting the country's worst financial crisis since the 1975-90 Civil War. The IMF has been critical of "very slow" progress. Efforts to enact reforms face obstruction from politicians protecting vested interests and evading accountability.
The end of former President Michel Aoun's term on Oct. 31 without the election of a successor has added to gaps at the executive level in Lebanon, which has had no fully functioning government since Mikati's cabinet assumed caretaker status in the aftermath of May parliamentary elections.
However, Mikati said Parliament would be able to pass the necessary reforms and finalize the deal if it had the will to do so. "Its all up to Parliament — if Parliament approves it, it can go into effect," Mikati told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference in Beirut.
Caretaker Justice Minister Henri Khoury said that approving the deal without a president or government in place was not ideal but that the top-level vacuum would require Parliament to step up. "With all these issues, there is a role for the legislature. We must find solutions," Khoury told Reuters.
'Temporary and limited'
On the political side, Mikati used his press conference on Thursday to call for "the end of the vacuum, a new president to be elected and a new government to be formed quickly so as to protect the country and preserve the state." The call comes as Lebanon experiences an unprecedented double vacuum at the executive level since the end of Michel Aoun's term as president on Oct. 31.
Mikati assured that the management of affairs by his cabinet is "temporary and limited to matters that fall within its framework." Many amomg Aoun's supporters blame Mikati for creating the double vacuum by failing to form a new government ahead of the end of Aoun's term. A fully empowered cabinet would have been able to assume the president's prerogatives until such time as a new head of state was elected.
"It seems that those who love to block … do not even want us to assume this responsibility and try to obstruct our mission," Mikati added. "Suggesting to the public that the government wants to occupy the president's place and works to appropriate his prerogatives is a lie," he insisted.
Lebanon's MPs failed on Thursday, at the end of a fifth dedicated parliamentary session, to elect a successor to Aoun after several MPs, including those belonging to the Free Patriotic Movement and Hezbollah, withdrew from the session at the end of the first round of voting, causing it to lose quorum in a repeat of what happened at previous electoral sessions.
Reporting by Timour Azhari, Editing by Angus MacSwan
BEIRUT — Lebanon could still finalize a deal with the International Monetary Fund for a $3 billion bailout despite having no president and no fully empowered government, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Thursday.Beirut signed a draft agreement with the IMF in April but has been slow to implement a series of reforms required by the lender to finalize the deal, which is seen as key...