Lebanon News

Hariri calls for calm after MP slams Aoun

Hariri meets with seventy students from Stanford Graduate School of Business in Beirut, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)

BEIRUT: Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri called for calm and said he would do his utmost to facilitate the formation of a new government after a senior Progressive Socialist Party official Thursday launched a scathing critique of President Michel Aoun.

When Aoun landed in Beirut Wednesday evening after a trip to France to speak at the opening of the European Parliament’s 2018-19 session, he was met with a caustic statement from MP Wael Abu Faour, who criticized both speeches the president gave.

In his speech to the European Parliament, Aoun had spoken of Lebanon’s democracy, human rights and coexistence.

“We listened to the speech given by [Aoun] in Strasbourg, and our eyes were filled with tears from the uplifting of emotions in your [speech],” Abu Faour’s statement said sarcastically.

The PSP MP, who is also a top political aide to the party’s leader Walid Joumblatt, then criticized Aoun’s second speech, which he gave Tuesday to members of the Lebanese diaspora in the French city, as one of “defiance, division, bullying and threatening with the use of power.” He added that Aoun’s repeated talk of reform “has become a joke to all Lebanese and those who speak about [reform].”

Abu Faour then turned to the Taif Accord, which ended the Lebanese Civil War, and indirectly accused Aoun of “living a historical revenge” against the agreement.

“Everything that is happening is a desperate attempt ... to prepare to [bury] the Taif [Accord],” Abu Faour said. He claimed that a battle is currently ongoing between those who want to protect the agreement and those who want to “bury it, such as these people,” he said, without elaborating.

Abu Faour accused Aoun’s presidential term of being one that will be remembered in history for “raising sectarianism between Lebanese.” This presidency “turned Lebanon back years ... and toward the dangers of sedition,” the statement read. “It seems that we are at the beginning of the dark path ... with more divisions and hatred.”

Aoun and Joumblatt have been at odds over the formation of a new government; the latter has been unyielding in his demand for all three Druze ministers in the event of a 30-member Cabinet.

Aoun, for his part, has cited May’s parliamentary elections as a reason to give one of the minority sect’s ministers to another party.

Officials and supporters from the FPM and the PSP have vehemently attacked each other on social media in recent days after a PSP minister reassigned an FPM-affiliated employee in his ministry. This led to an FPM minister to retaliate, shifting a PSP-affiliated state employee from one job to another.

Meanwhile, Hariri called for calm and said he would do his utmost to facilitate the formation of a new government. “Despite the differences between the political parties, we hope through our calm and responsible interaction with all parties and patient resolve that we will form a new government,” Hariri said to a group of students from Stanford University. According to a statement from Hariri’s office, the premier-designate said that without patience and a wise approach, “we can not solve these problems and [improve] the country.”

After telling the students about the hardships Lebanon has faced from wars, Israeli aggression and political assassinations, Hariri said Lebanon has a unique opportunity to revive the country and its economy.

He noted that the Syrian refugee crisis has been a primary problem, but “we are trying to use this opportunity of the CEDRE conference to rehabilitate basic infrastructure and advance the country as a whole.” He was referring to the conference held in Paris in April to support Lebanon’s infrastructure and economy.

Separately, Speaker Nabih Berri voiced his skepticism of any government being formed soon.

He was quoted as telling visitors to his Ain al-Tineh residence that “there are no new developments whatsoever.” Berri said the situation is at a “complete deadlock.”

Hezbollah has blamed the delay on foreign players and warned that the country cannot continue on its current path. Following its weekly meeting, the Loyalty to the Resistance bloc blamed local politicians for allowing foreign influence to hinder the government formation process.

“We do not point to [external factors] as a main reason for the delay in government formation, but if it were not for the domestic circumstances and the local aspirations of some, these foreign influences would not have been able to obstruct the formation,” MP Mohammad Raad, who heads the bloc, said.

“Not having a government threatens the country, especially given that services are disrupted, the administration is flaccid and people’s demands are forgotten. This threatens the economic and security situation in the country,” he said. “The country cannot move forward without a government or with an obstructed government, namely the caretaker government [in place now].”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 14, 2018, on page 2.

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