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“The constitution allows me to convene meetings of the cabinet, and I will do so,” caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Sunday, dismissing accusations of vying for de facto presidential powers as Lebanon nears the end of its first month of executive vacuum. In a televised interview, Mikati also cited parliamentary support for cabinet convening despite its caretaker status, while critics fear that the government will overstep its prerogatives. The government’s inability to meet reportedly jeopardized National Social Security Fund beneficiaries’ dialysis and cancer treatments and prevented payment for the FIFA 2022 World Cup broadcasting rights on national television. Mikati also reiterated his support for Marada head Sleiman Frangieh to become Lebanon’s next president. Frangieh — who, following Mikati’s first endorsement, received a vote during a single parliamentary session dedicated to electing the country’s next head of state — is thought to also have Hezbollah’s, yet undisclosed, support despite a disavowal from Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) head Gebran Bassil. Hezbollah, the FPM and their allies repeatedly cast blank votes during Parliament sessions to elect a president. Meanwhile, Lebanese Forces head Samir Geagea — whose party and its allies have repeatedly voted for Zgharta MP Michel Moawad, considered by some a “defiant” candidate — said on Saturday that his party “has no problem with any group or person" working to "save" Lebanon. Ahead of the eighth attempt to elect a president scheduled for Thursday, US officials reiterated calls for the timely election of a president.
A group of 11 MPs alongside former MP Ramy Finge yesterday filed an appeal to the Constitutional Council opposing the 2022 budget. The complaint cites more than a dozen grievances challenging the constitutionality of adopting the budget, including its approval more than 10 months overdue. The budget, which came into force on Nov. 15, will continue to apply pending the council’s ruling on the complaint within the next two weeks, MP Paula Yacoubian told L’Orient Today. The increased, and partly retroactive, levies in the budget already caused outcry and have drawn criticisms for perceived fiscal inequity. Despite the new taxes, the budget includes a significant deficit. The increased revenue to the state is thought to fund increases to public employees’ radically devalued salaries — a much demanded measure in the midst of Lebanon’s third year of economic collapse and one repeatedly cited during protests across sectors.
The Health Ministry confirmed that the Tripoli nursing home residents who were hospitalized Sunday night are suffering from cholera infections but added that they are in “stable” conditions. "The patients suffering from diarrhea were isolated and 14 people were hospitalized at the government hospital in Tripoli as a precautionary measure," the ministry said in a statement issued Sunday evening. The patients were reportedly suffering from vomiting and heavy coughing. An additional five people were evacuated from the nursing home in Tripoli’s Abi Samra neighborhood Monday, a Health Ministry source told L’Orient Today. Tests confirmed that the symptoms were caused by cholera. Lebanon has been battling its first cholera outbreak in 30 years since a case of the illness was detected on Oct. 5. The Health Ministry has repeated calls for residents to abide by preventative measures, while its vaccination campaign has so far reached two-thirds of its 600,000 targeted inoculations.
The Lebanese Army yesterday briefly sealed the al-Sharawneh neighborhood in Baalbeck in an attempt to locate two kidnapped children. The army searched the homes of convicts and suspects in the area. On Nov. 15, the army conducted a helicopter-aided search of the village of Dar al-Wasiaa, west of Baalbeck, reportedly leading to an altercation with the alleged kidnappers. The kidnappers allegedly abducted Mouhannad and his brother Ghaleb, aged 13 and 15, several weeks ago on their way home from school. The area’s residents and the children’s classmates held a sit-in on Oct. 31 demanding authorities’ intervention. The abductees’ uncle said the kidnappers demanded a $350,000 dollar ransom, threatening to harvest the children’s organs.
In case you missed it, here's our must-read story from yesterday: “Khamenei puts Lebanon back at the heart of a regional tug of war”
Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz