BEIRUT — Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced Friday that cabinet will convene on Monday at 11 a.m. according to an official statement from Prime Minister's Secretariat.
"The Constitution authorizes me to convene the cabinet, and I will do so," Mikati said during a televised interview on Sunday. Critics accused him of wanting to assume the prerogatives of the presidency, which has been vacant for over a month.
The agenda for Monday's meeting comprises 65 items, including the approval of a request to cover the purchase of medicines and basic foodstuffs using $35 million from Banque du Liban's Special Drawing Rights over three months. The agenda also includes the approval of aid for the army and funding for the rehabilitation of dilapidated buildings in Tripoli.
Contacted by L'Orient-Le Jour, Mikati said that a quorum of two-thirds of ministers is necessary to convene cabinet, though only a simple majority of votes is needed to approve items.
According to some critics and constitutional experts, Mikati's move to convene the ministers in the absence of a president and while the government is in a caretaker status is a violation of the constitution. However, the Lebanese constitution does not predict nor mention a scenario in which the country is faced with an executive double vacancy.
Unconstitutional decrees, illegal decisions
Following the meeting's announcement, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) — the party of former President Michel Aoun — denounced Mikati's decision, saying that he "deliberately refrains from respecting the government's prerogatives within the framework of its competencies described by the constitution."
In a statement, the FPM said the caretaker PM "issues unconstitutional decrees and makes illegal decisions in the name of competencies that he does not possess."
Given the infamous opposition between Mikati and the Aounist party, some observers believe that government ministers close to the former head of state will boycott the meeting.
In its statement, the FPM also denounced a possible "political campaign planned that requires the meeting of cabinet in violation of the constitution under the pretext of ensuring funding of basic needs."
On Nov. 1, Lebanon entered a total political vacuum— without a president and with a caretaker government that is only responsible for the management of day-to-day affairs.
No successor has been elected to replace Aoun since he left office on Oct. 31. Lebanon's Parliament has held no less than eight electoral sessions but to no avail.
On Sunday, the caretaker prime minister stressed that "it is the cabinet that occupies today the place of the president, not Najib Mikati."