BEIRUT — Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati's cabinet meeting kicked off shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday to discuss electricity production and other key issues, though without attendance from Free Patriotic Movement ministers, as they claim the session is unconstitutional without a head of state.
On the cabinet's agenda are electricity production, as state provider Électricité du Liban struggles from a lack of fuel, as well as other urgent issues, including wheat imports, extending the contract of Naameh landfill and increasing transportation fees for school teachers.
According to a tweet by the Grand Serail, Mikati started the session by saying the gathering was "more than urgent, like the previous one ... The current caretaker government does not intend to replace the president or consider that the country can continue without a president."
"Today's session is a response to a national duty and assuming national, constitutional, ethical and lawful responsibilities to respond to the urgent needs of the people in the matters of electricity, and to take anticipatory and preliminary measures to protect the food safety of the Lebanese through securing credits necessary for wheat, flour and other items, in addition to living and health needs which cannot be postponed," Mikati was quoted as saying.
Mikati continued: "This session, and its previous one and any governmental measure in the future will be in line with the constitution and in accordance with the partnership and the [National] Pact, and is not at all a challenge to any side."
Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech Tuesday that his party's cabinet members will only attend the discussions related to electricity and will withdraw after. He clarified that their participation is not meant to "challenge" any other party, in reference to the FPM, his Christian ally.
On Tuesday, the FPM said it rejected what it called a "severed" caretaker cabinet meeting, which the party described as "unconstitutional."
"All ministers who participate in the cabinet meetings will bear responsibility for assaulting the National Pact and violating the Constitution," the FPM added. Tourism minister Walid Nassar and Economy minister Amin Salam, both considered close to FPM, are attending this session.
Wednesday's meeting was scheduled amid disagreement between the FPM — Hezbollah's political ally — and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati on whether the cabinet can convene during a presidential vacancy.
This is the second cabinet session to take place after it entered caretaker status following legislative elections in May 2022. The first session was also boycotted by some ministers close to FPM.
Lebanon is also grappling with a presidential vacancy since Michel Aoun left office on Oct. 31. Following the end of Aoun's term, Parliament agreed that the cabinet will not meet except in cases of emergency.
Lebanon's caretaker Energy Minister Walid Fayad, who is close to the FPM, announced Monday that he sent decrees to other ministers demanding a credit advance from the government's treasury amounting to $300 million. The decrees were rejected by Mikati, who insists on convening the cabinet to discuss electricity funding.
EDL shut down its power plants last week due to a lack of fuel, causing political tension between Mikati and the Free Patriotic Movement.
As the cabinet meeting went on, public school teachers' unions protested in front of the Grand Serail to call for increased salaries and transportation stipends. Their living conditions have deteriorated in recent years alongside the lira, which has lost more than 90 percent of its value since the crisis began in 2019.
BEIRUT — Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati's cabinet meeting kicked off shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday to discuss electricity production and other key issues, though without attendance from Free Patriotic Movement ministers, as they claim the session is unconstitutional without a head of state.On the cabinet's agenda are electricity production, as state provider Électricité du Liban...