Search
Search

CRISIS

Mikati's caretaker cabinet met despite several ministers' decision to boycott the session

The caretaker government asked Banque du Liban to release $35 million to buy medicines and milk for children. It also approved social assistance for military personnel and pensioners.

Mikati's caretaker cabinet met despite several ministers' decision to boycott the session

Outgoing Prime Minister Nagib Mikati presiding over a meeting of his outgoing cabinet, on Dec. 5 2022. (Credit: Dalati Nohra)

Najib Mikati's caretaker cabinet met Monday at the Grand Serail in Beirut, during which it approved social and medical aid in Lebanon despite the boycott of several ministers close to the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), the party founded by former president Michel Aoun.

On Sunday, ministers Abdallah Bou Habib, Henri Khoury, Maurice Slim, Amine Salam, Hector Hajjar, Walid Fayad, Walid Nassar, Georges Bouchikian and Issam Charafeddine (close to the Druze leader, Talal Arslane) said in a joint statement that they were boycotting the cabinet meeting, calling it a "violation of the Constitution."

Their boycott announcement led to fears that the government session would not be held due to the lack of a quorum. But the meeting was ultimately held after Bouchikian and Hajjar arrived at the Grand Serail Monday morning, which allowed the cabinet to be convened with the presence of 17 ministers out of a total of 24.

Election of a president

"Today's meeting is extraordinary. I would not have called the ministers to this meeting if it were not to discuss health issues," Mikati said at the beginning of the session, adding that he would not allow the constitution to be used as a pretext to postpone a meeting to address challenges in the health sector.

"This will not happen under my mandate," he said.

"Today, we can no longer spend money to help cancer patients and those requiring dialysis," Mikati said. "Do they want us to commit a collective crime? If that is what they are asking, let everyone assume their responsibilities ... We will continue to assume our own responsibilities in facing the difficulties."

The caretaker Prime Minister then called for "the rapid election of a president of the republic to end this problem," in a reference to the extraordinary meetings of his cabinet that triggered a debate with the Aounist camp on the prerogatives of the outgoing Prime Minister.

"Let's leave politics aside, the people are suffering," Mikati said in a discussion with journalists at the end of the meeting.

He further explained that some items on the agenda were not unanimously agreed upon and therefore not approved.

"No one is trying to take over the prerogatives of the president. If [the Aounist camp] wants to settle this issue, let them elect a president," Mikati concluded.

Aounist boycott

The ministerial boycott comes after the FPM indirectly encouraged its affiliates to refrain from participating in the meeting. Aoun on Sunday said that Mikati's convening of the government is an "attempt to seize power and impose his will on the Lebanese contrary to what the constitution dictates."

But ministers Hajjar and Bouchikian, who are considered to be in the Aounist circle, did not comply with this call.

Hajjar, who eventually went to the meeting, left before it ended to mark his discontentment.

"I would have preferred that this meeting not continue," Hajjar said. "One month after the end of Michel Aoun's term, the question is how to run the country until the next presidential election, respecting the Constitution ... Let's leave the issue of the presidential election to the Parliament."

"We respect the choice of the ministers, whether they decided to go to the meeting or to boycott it," said Mustapha Bayram, caretaker Minister of Labor, close to Hezbollah.

Hezbollah is suspected of having pressured the recalcitrant ministers. "The agenda of this meeting was about the exceptional situation of the country. We did not pressure anyone to attend this meeting," Bayram told reporters.

Ali Hamiyeh, caretaker Minister of Transport, who is also close to Hezbollah, also said that Hezbollah "did not contact anyone" before the meeting. "We rejected an item on the value-added tax (VAT) and another on the new oil prices. We also decided that the companies in charge of household waste disposal will continue to work until next year," he explained.

Government decisions

At the end of the meeting, the caretaker government "accepted a request to Banque du Liban to release $35 million that will be used to buy medicines and milk for children," caretaker Information Minister Ziad Makary said in a statement after the meeting was adjourned.

"The government has also approved social assistance for the military and pensioners estimated at twice their salary," he added.  

Najib Mikati's caretaker cabinet met Monday at the Grand Serail in Beirut, during which it approved social and medical aid in Lebanon despite the boycott of several ministers close to the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), the party founded by former president Michel Aoun.On Sunday, ministers Abdallah Bou Habib, Henri Khoury, Maurice Slim, Amine Salam, Hector Hajjar, Walid Fayad, Walid Nassar,...