Lebanese President Michel Aoun has called on Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri to make way for someone else if he is unable to form a government.
In a televised speech late on Wednesday, Aoun asked Hariri to visit the presidential palace to form a new cabinet immediately or leave space for others as the country’s economic crisis deepens.
“If Prime Minister-designate Hariri finds himself unable to form a government, he should make way for those who are,” Aoun said. “My call is determined and truthful to the prime minister-designate to choose immediately one of the two choices, as silence is not an option after today.”
The Lebanese president also challenged accusations against him of obstructing the formation of a government.
“There is no use in… blame-shifting if the country collapses and the people become prisoners of despair and frustration,” he said. “There is no escape for them but anger. Everything subsides in front of the people’s suffering, which has reached levels that they cannot bear.”
Hariri was tasked with forming a government for a fourth time in October last year. That was one year after he resigned as prime minister amid mass protests. But he has failed to form a government.
The country has been without a government since the last administration resigned following a devastating explosion at the port in Beirut.
Hariri responded to Auon’s plea on Wednesday and said he was surprised to hear the president’s comments on the urgency of the formation of the next government.
“After many weeks of introducing an integrated lineup to a non-partisan specialist government capable of implementing the reforms required to stop the collapse and start reconstruction of what was destroyed by the port explosion in Beirut, I am awaiting a call from the president to discuss the proposed lineup,” he said in a statement.
Hariri underlined that he had visited the Lebanese president 16 times since being designated to form a new government, and would be honored to visit Aoun for the 17th time to discuss the issue when his schedule permits.
Hariri also said that Aoun should allow early presidential elections if he cannot sign the decrees allowing the formation of a new government.
Lebanon is facing both a political deadlock and an economic crisis, with no new government agreed some seven months after Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned in the wake of the August 4 Beirut port explosion that destroyed swathes of the capital and left 200 people dead.
Compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, the country is experiencing its worst economic crisis in decades as prices are skyrocketing and more than half of the population is now living below the poverty line.
People have been staging protests since 2019 as the financial crisis has so far slashed almost 90% of the value of the Lebanese currency and raised the risk of widespread hunger.
President Aoun has ordered an investigation into the fall of the national currency’s value and the punishment of those responsible for the potential corruption that has brought about the situation.